Gujarat says Hindus need permission to convert to Buddhism

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The Gujarat government’s recent circular has brought attention to the legal procedures surrounding conversions between Hinduism and other religions, particularly Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. 

Issued under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, the directive clarifies that these religions are distinct from Hinduism and require prior approval from the district magistrate for conversions. 

This move aims to address discrepancies in the interpretation of the law by district magistrates and ensure adherence to proper legal procedures. 

Key Points:

• Gujarat says permission required for Hinduism to Buddhism conversion

• Buddhism was declared a ‘separate religion’ under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act 2003

• Circular issued by Gujarat Home Department on April 8

The prescribed format for conversions mandates detailed documentation, including personal information and event logistics, submitted by a religious leader (‘dharmguru’) to the district magistrate. 

Buddhism will be considered a separate religion. A person who converts another person from Hinduism to Buddhism, Sikhism or Jainism has to take prior permission from the District Magistrate

The response from the Gujarat Buddhist Academy (GBA) indicates support for the circular, emphasizing the independence of Buddhism from Hinduism and advocating for proper adherence to legal protocols. 

Conversions to Buddhism, particularly among Dalits, reflect a broader societal desire for distinct religious and social identities. 

However, recent amendments to the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, particularly regarding conversions through marriage, have faced legal challenges, highlighting ongoing debates surrounding religious freedom and regulatory measures in the state.