Mental shift

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Conversion fire engulfs Karnataka, seven churches vandalized

Posted by jytmkh on September 15, 2008

MANGALORE/UDUPI/CHIKMAGALUR: After Kandhmal, it is the turn of Christians in Karnataka to face the ire of right-wing Hindu mobs.

Suspected Bajrang Dal activists vandalized seven churches and a house in Mangalore, Udupi and Chikmagalur districts on Sunday, protesting alleged conversions of Hindus to Christianity.

Some preachers and parishioners were assaulted and church property damaged in the attacks. The police in the three districts are yet to arrest anyone.

In Dakshina Kannada district, the activists targeted the Adoration Monastery just off the Milagres Church on Falnir Road. The 10-member group barged into the prayer hall and damaged the tabernacle, where the holy Eucharist is kept. They damaged windowpanes, furniture as well the crucifix. Police said the same group attempted to vandalise another prayer hall in Kankanady, but were driven back.

Later, Christians gathered in large numbers in front of the Milagres Hall to protest against the series of attacks. The day-long stand off between the protesters and the police resulted in violence. Protesters hurled stones at the police who lathicharged them in return. Several vehicles were damaged, including the jeep of the city DSP D Dharmaiah.

Police burst teargas shells to disperse the angry youth. Some of the protesters took shelter in the Milagres Church Hall premises to escape the mob fury. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in the area up to 8 am on Wednesday.

SP N Sathish Kumar said the police stood guard at some churches that they suspected would be targets of attacks. However, the miscreants had changed their plans in the last moment and attacked churches that did not have police security.

In Udupi district, three places of worship belonging to the New Life group in the district were attacked while the Sunday prayers were in progress. No arrests have been made so far.

A prayer hall near the KSRTC bus station was attacked around 10.20 am during a prayer. Over 15 activists entered the hall and attacked the people and ransacked the entire place. A music system and projector were damaged. According to sources, the miscreants came in vehicles.

In Shiroor, near Baindur, the prayer hall of the same group was attacked. A vehicle was burnt and some members of the congregation, including the pastor, were attacked. A similar incident was reported from Mudur near Kollur where some materials were damaged. However, the police prevented another such attack in prayer halls of the New Life group in Kaup and Karkala. Udupi SP Pravin Pawar said he suspected Bajrang Dal activists were behind the attack.

He told TOI that the police registered cases and investigations had started. In Chikmagalur district, the activists attacked three churches and the house of a neo convert. In one incident, 15 activists came in a vehicle and barged into Harvest India church at Makkikoppa near Jayapura in Koppa taluk in the morning and assaulted a parishioner and the protestant pastor. They broke the window panes and the plastic chairs.

Concerned over the prospects of an anti-Christian campaign spreading to Karnataka soon after attacks on minorities in Orissa, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh drew the attention of chief minister B S Yedyurappa to reports of such incidents earlier in the day.

He also talked to governor Rameshwar Thakur. The stage for the PM’s telephonic talks had been set by a Congress demand for central interventions to end attacks on churches and Christian institutions allegedly by Sangh Parivar activists. In a statement, party leader Veerappa Moily said that several outfits of the Sangh Parivar had attacked churches and Christian buildings in a number of districts in southern Karnataka.

He said that such incidents had been going on for the past few weeks. Claiming that the culprits were allowed to go free, Moily claimed that the BJP government in the state had looked the other way instead of arresting the hoodlums. “Congress demands that the state government initiate immediate action; otherwise we may have no option but to approach the government of India for appropriate intervention,” he said in a statement. (TOI)

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