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Indian lawmakers demand Modi to speak on mass conversions

December 22, 2014

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. — AP/File
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. — AP/File

NEW DELHI: Opposition lawmakers, charging that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done little to stop hard-liners in his party from forcibly converting religious minorities to Hinduism, threw Parliament into an uproar Monday, with the upper house of Parliament adjourned after descending into shouting matches.

Right-wing Hindu groups allied to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — and whose members are overwhelmingly BJP members — have conducted a series of ceremonies across India over the past week to convert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism.

Some of the Muslims have complained that they changed their religion out of fear. India is largely Hindu, but has large Muslim and Christian minorities.

Read: India ruling party chief urges law against conversions

Modi, an avowed Hindu nationalist and longtime member of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Dal or the National Volunteers Association, one of the main groups behind the conversions, has remained largely silent on the issue.

Parliament has been repeatedly thrown into an uproar over the past week amid arguments over the conversions. Opposition lawmakers say Modi's silence is damaging the secular nature of Indian society and the religious freedoms guaranteed by its Constitution.

The Upper House of Parliament was adjourned Monday after opposition lawmakers demanded that the prime minister clarify his position on the conversions.

Muslims make up about 13 per cent of India's 1.2 billion people. The Muslim community has been particularly wary of Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which won a huge majority in general elections in May.

Read: RSS to press ahead on conversions in challenge to Modi