28th October, 2006
The Chhattisgarh High Court has directed the state government to provide security to those who voluntarily change their religion.
Disposing of a habeas corpus petition, a Division bench comprising Mr Justice Lal Chand Bhadu and Justice Vijay Kumar Shrivastava has issued the directive in connection with the case of a tribal, who embraced Islam and alleged harassment by caste-Hindus.
Mr Nurul Islam alias Jitram Gond, a resident of Sarguja district, had embraced Islam two years ago and his parents and sister also converted to Islam recently.
In a habeas corpus petition, Mr Zafrullah, a resident of Ambikapur, said Mr Gond and his family members voluntarily embraced Islam and also informed the district administration, but they were being pressurised and harassed by caste-Hindus.
On the night of October 3, the petition said, a mob of about 2,500 BJP, VHP, Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal workers, led by former minister Ms Renuka Singh, reached the residence of Mr Gond and forcibly took him and three others to the Durga pandal, where they were tonsured and forced to perform 'Havan'. Since then, their whereabouts were not known.
After the petition was filed on October 9, the court directed the government to provide security to the family. However, Mr Nurul Islam managed to reach here on October 18 and informed the court that his family members were being kept under detention.
Police produced the trio in the court yesterday. The court directed the district administration to provide security to the family and take action on their complaint. "No pressure should be put on those who voluntarily adopt other religion," the court added.
The BJP governments in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have enacted legislations with provision for imprisonment for forcible conversion or failing to inform the district administration.