Karnataka BJP MLA alleges mass forced conversions, probe report exposes his claim

The survey was ordered on October 4 after Goolihatti Shekar, the BJP MLA representing the constituency, alleged that his mother was forcibly converted to Christianity.
A representative image of a BJP protest juxtaposed with image of a church
A representative image of a BJP protest juxtaposed with image of a church
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The results of a survey conducted to identify for forced conversions in Karnataka’s Chitradurga has refuted the Karnataka government's claim of rampant forced conversions in the state. The survey was ordered on October 4 by the Hosadurga Tehsildar after Goolihatti Shekar, the BJP MLA representing the constituency, alleged that his mother was forcefully converted to Christianity.

The Hosadurga Tehsildar’s report, which TNM has accessed, says that all the believers who attend prayers in the five churches in the taluk do so voluntarily and nobody has been coerced. In addition, the Tehsildar also visited two areas where social media reports alleged forced conversions were being conducted. His report says that while eight people who had converted to Christianity reconverted to their original religion, nobody complained of being forced to convert.

The report reads that the survey was ordered based on social media reports that claimed that poor SC and ST families were being lured with money to convert to Christianity. “As per the directions of the DC, a survey was conducted and details of Churches in Hosadurga Taluk is given below.

  • Apron Aradhana Mandir in Vidya Nagar - 30 people
  • St Luke Church, NIS Layout - 80 people
  • Kalwari Bethel Church, Shanthi Nagar - 120 people
  • St Anthony’s Church, Hiriyur road - 49 people
  • Paulom Church, Kappagere Road - 60 people

This was the list of churchgoers in the taluk. “In all these Churches, people offer prayers on Fridays and Sundays and it has been found that they are doing so voluntarily, without any threats or inducements. Nor have they gotten any benefits from the government,” reads the report.

Hosadurga Tehsildar Y Thippeswamy told TNM that he visited two places where forced conversions were suspected – Srirampura Hobli and Madadakere Hobli. “The District Collector told us to inquire and submit a report. I went to the spot along with the Circle Inspector and made inquiries. All the people there told us that nobody had forced them to convert and they did so on their own accord,” he told TNM.

“In all the churches we visited also, people said that none of them were forcibly converted,” he added.

The report says that in Srirampura’s Maruthinagar, a pastor who was not a local had converted 35 families belonging to the Sidda community to Christianity. “We visited five families who said that they were not pressured, lured or forced to convert to Christianity and did so out of their own will,” the report reads.

In Madadakere’s Bovihatti village, where 22 people converted to Christianity, there were no complaints of coercion, says the report. “None of those who have converted have availed any schemes provided by the government for Christians,” reads the report. It adds that the fact-finding report being submitted will contain photographs and videos of people saying that they were not forced or lured to convert.

The report says that some of the people who converted did so with the hope of getting benefits. However, the report does not say if any benefits were indeed given. It also mentions that eight members of three families in Srirampura converted back to their original religion but the officials could not contact them to verify this.

“We cannot initiate any action because none of them have complained to us saying that they were being tormented or forced to convert to Christianity. Only in such cases can action be taken,” Thippeswamy told TNM.

On September 21, BJP MLA Goolihatti Shekar had broached the issue of ‘forced conversions’ in the state. In his speech, he had alleged that in his constituency of Hosadurga, forced conversions were rampant. “In my constituency alone, around 15,000 to 20,000 people have been converted to Christianity. My own mother has been converted to Christianity. It was very awkward for the family members that all our relatives who visited us would ask why my mother would listen to Christian hymns and pray to Christian gods,” he had said.

After this, the Minorities, Backward Classes Welfare Committee has sought a report on all religious conversions in the last 25 years.

The Karnataka government is expected to table a Bill banning forced conversion in the ongoing Assembly session taking place in Belagavi. A source in the government said that the draft of the Bill has been sent for legal scrutiny to the Union Government, and once it is cleared, the same will be given to members of the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) and then tabled in the Assembly.

 A map that shows attacks on Christians in Karnataka in 2021.

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