CM’s announcement to repeal APFR Act elicits sharp reactions

[ Taba Ajum ]
ITANAGAR, Jun 29: Chief Minister Pema Khandu’s announcement to repeal the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (APFR) Act or the Anti-Conversion Law passed in 1978 has elicited sharp reactions from the people of the state.
Pema made the announcement on Thursday while attending a programme organized by the Arunachal Pradesh Catholic Association at Karsingsa. Although it was passed by the state assembly, the APFR Act has never been implemented in the state.
This daily spoke to various stakeholders to get their views. While indigenous faith groups of the state strongly condemned the CM’s decision, the Christian organizations have supported the announcement. Ironically, the chief minister’s bitter critic and president of the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee, Takam Sanjoy, has strongly backed his decision.
“This is a historic announcement made by the chief minister. I congratulate him for taking such a bold decision. In a secular country like ours there should be no place for an obsolete law like this. The Congress party stands behind the CM in this particular decision,” said Sanjoy.
The Indigenous Faith & Cultural Society of Arunachal Pradesh (IFCSAP) condemned the CM’s announcement and accused him of indulging in minority appeasement. It alleged that the move would be detrimental to the growth of the indigenous people and their culture.
“The Freedom of Religion Act 1978 assented by the President of India was brought into law to safeguard the indigenous people from poaching by the established religions such as Hindu, Christian, Islam, etc. Repealing the law that safeguards the indigenous people would open floodgates of poaching and it would lead to marginalization of the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh,” the IFCSAP stated.
It appealed to the chief minister to withdraw his statement, and warned of mass statewide movement if the CM fails to do so.
The Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) has welcomed the CM’s decision and urged all the MLAs, cutting across party lines, to support the CM on this move.
“When this law was passed in the state assembly, most of our MLAs were not educated and were innocent. The then Janata Party government took advantage of their innocence and passed this law. We wholeheartedly welcome the move of the CM,” said ACF general secretary Toko Teki.
The Arunachal Pradesh Catholic Association has also welcomed the move.
On the other hand, the Nyishi Indigenous Faiths and Cultural Society while opposing the move termed Pema’s statement “callous and irresponsible,” and alleged that the CM was undermining the sentiments and emotions of the indigenous faith believers of the state.
Professor Nani Bath of Rajiv Gandhi University expressed surprise at the sudden announcement of the CM, but said that it would not make any difference.
“This is a dead law and whether it is repealed or not does not make any difference to the state. However, there is no denying that this law managed to stop rampant conversion in the state. If not, today our state would have been like Mizoram or Meghalaya,” he said.
The Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion (APFR) Act was passed in the state legislative assembly in 1978 by the then Janata Party government led by PK Thungon, who was the chief minister. Arunachal was still a union territory at that time. Morarji Desai was the prime minister heading the Janata Party government at the Centre.