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Posts Tagged ‘Hindus’

Stop the politics of division

Posted by jytmkh on October 14, 2008

Last week, in responding to some of the hundreds of reactions i received to my September 28 column on the anti-Christian violence in Orissa and Karnataka, i tackled the vexed question of conversions to Christianity, which many readers argued constituted a provocation for the violence. But the conversion issue is not purely a religious one: behind it lies a profoundly political question, one which goes to the heart of the nature of the Indian state, and indeed to the very idea of India itself.

In my original piece i argued that violence is part of a contemptible political project whose closest equivalent can in fact be found in the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ bomb blasts. Both actions are anti-national; both aim to divide the country by polarising people along their religious identities; and both hope to profit politically from such polarisation. In this context, the issue of conversion becomes a diversion. Because to say that conversions are somehow inherently wrong would accord legitimacy to the rhetoric of the Bajrang Dal and its cohorts – who declare openly that conversions from Hinduism to any other faith are anti-national. Implicit is the idea that to be Hindu is somehow more natural, more authentically Indian, than to be anything else, and that to lapse from Hinduism is to dilute one’s identification with the motherland.

As a Hindu, I reject that notion utterly. I reject the presumption that the purveyors of hatred speak for all or even most Hindus. Hinduism, we are repeatedly told, is a tolerant faith. The central tenet of tolerance is that the tolerant society accepts that which it does not understand and even that which it does not like, so long as it is not sought to be imposed upon the unwilling. One cannot simultaneously extol the tolerance of Hinduism and attack Christian homes and places of worship.

And as an Indian, i would argue that the whole point about India is the rejection of the idea that religion should be a determinant of nationhood. Our nationalist leaders never fell into the insidious trap of agreeing that, since Partition had established a state for Muslims, what remained was a state for Hindus. To accept the idea of India you have to spurn the logic that divided the country in 1947. Your Indianness has nothing to do with which God you choose to worship, or not.

To suggest that an Indian Hindu becoming Christian is an anti-national act not only insults the millions of patriotic Indians who trace their Christi

 

anity to more distant forebears, including the Kerala Christians whose families converted to the faith of Saint Thomas centuries before the ancestors of many of today’s Hindu chauvinists even learned to think of themselves as Hindu. It is an insult, too, to the national leaders, freedom fighters, educationists, scientists, military men, journalists and sportsmen of the Christian faith who have brought so much glory to the country through their actions and sacrifices. It is, indeed, an insult to the very idea of India. Nothing could be more anti-national than that.

One reader, Raju Rajagopal, writing “as a fellow Hindu”, expressed himself trenchantly in describing ‘terrorism’ and ‘communal riots’ as “two sides of the same coin, which systematically feed on each other.” The only difference, he added, is “that the first kind of terrorism is being unleashed by a fanatical few who swear no allegiance to the idea of India, whereas the second kind of terror is being unleashed by those who claim to love India more dearly than you and i, who are part of the electoral politics of India, and who know the exact consequences of their actions: creating deep fissures between communities, whose horrific consequences the world has witnessed once too often in recent decades.”

That is the real problem here. Nehru had warned that the communalism of the majority was especially dangerous because it could present itself as nationalist. Yet, Hindu nationalism is not Indian nationalism. And it has nothing to do with genuine Hinduism either. A reader bearing a Christian name wrote to tell me that when his brother was getting married to a Hindu girl, the Hindu priest made a point of saying to him before the ceremony words to the effect of: “When i say God, i don’t mean a particular God.” As this reader commented: “It’s at moments like that that i can’t help but feel proud to be Indian and to be moved by its religiosity – even though i’m an atheist.”

As a Hindu, I relish pointing out that i belong to the only major religion in the world that does not claim to be the only true religion. Hinduism asserts that all ways of belief are equally valid, and Hindus readily venerate the saints, and the sacred objects, of other faiths. Hinduism is a civilisation, not a dogma. There is no such thing as a Hindu heresy. If a Hindu decides he wishes to be a Christian, how does it matter that he has found a different way of stretching his hands out towards God? Truth is one, Vivekananda reminded all Hindus, but there are many ways of attaining it.

So, the rejection of other forms of worship, other ways of seeking the Truth, is profoundly un-Hindu, as well as being un-Indian. The really important debate is not about conversions, but between the unifiers and the dividers – between those who think all Indians are “us”, whichever God they choose to worship, and those who think that Indians can be divided into “us” and “them”. The reduction of non-Hindus to second-class status in their own homeland is unthinkable. It would be a second Partition: this time a partition not just in the Indian soil, but in the Indian soul.

It is time for all of us to say: stop the politics of division. We are all Indians.

 Source: SHASHI ON SUNDAY The Times of India

 
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Terror in Orissa

Posted by jytmkh on October 13, 2008

A Christianity Today editorial

Religiously motivated terrorism is constantly in today’s headlines, and Islam has faced its share of scrutiny of late (see, for example, “Islam According to Gallup,” page 38). This is not surprising, given that we are barely seven years removed from Osama bin Laden’s attacks against the United States. Yet no faith has a corner on the terror market. Bloodshed darkens the ranks of every religion.
India, the world’s second most populous country, has long been wracked by sectarian violence. In the six-plus decades since Indian independence, Hindu mobs have attacked Sikhs, Muslims, and other Hindus. In fact, a Hindu assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.
It’s time for India to start acting like the world’s largest democracy
Christians, too, who constitute about 2.4 percent of India’s 1.1 billion people, have long been easy targets for those who believe that to be Indian is to be Hindu. This summer, terrorists in Orissa launched a pogrom against the state’s defenseless Christian scapegoats after Maoist rebels assassinated a prominent Hindu swami (see page 15). As local police looked the other way, dozens of Christians were murdered, hundreds of homes were destroyed, scores of churches were torched, and thousands of Christians fled to nearby forests for safety. Some faced this stark choice: Become a Hindu or be killed. The mayhem quickly spread to five more states. Pledging aid to the victims, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh—whose secular government did too little, too late—called the violence a “national shame.” What an understatement that is.

An Attack Every Three Days
The real embarrassment to the world’s largest democracy is not this incident. No, it is the fact that this flashpoint is not all that unusual for India. Orissa witnessed other attacks against
Christians just last Christmas. According to All India Christian Council, which defends the human rights of the nation’s long-oppressed Dalits, somewhere in India an attack against Christians occurs on average every three days. Readers of this periodical will likely recall the grisly murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Orissa nearly a decade ago (ct, March 1, 1999).
Freedom of religion is currently under threat in India. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom notes “a marked increase in violent attacks against members of religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians” in the late 1990s. The Institute on Religion and Public Policy (irpp) counts four Indian states—Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh—that formally restrict the right of Christians to share their faith with non-Christians.
Anti-Christian activists use these laws to punish followers of Jesus who attempt to obey the Great Commission, often claiming that Christians illegally bribe the poor to convert. This is a distortion at best. There is no doubt that many downtrodden Indians advance economically when they break the millennia-old chains of caste. How could they not? When you are at the very bottom, any move is a move up. Not to mention that many prefer the freedom Christ offers to Hinduism’s caste system.
As Doug Bandow of the irpp dryly observes, “Rather than address the horrid treatment of lower-caste Indians, Hindu militants prefer to attack Christians.” George Orwell could have been referring to the evils of caste when he wrote, “Imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.” Many Dalits have decided to shout, “No!” to the caste system’s pitiless boot, and convert.
State anti-conversion laws contradict India’s sprawling constitution, which formally prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. The charter also recognizes that “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice, and propagate religion.”
These pernicious state laws also go against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was formally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly 60 years ago, right after India’s independence. That document recognizes “the inherent dignity and … the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” Article 18, which highlights the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, notes, “This right includes freedom to change … religion or belief, and freedom … to manifest … religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” It’s time for New Delhi to get serious about religious freedom.

‘Where Does It End?’
Prominent Hindus who rightly see their nation as an emerging world power are beginning to turn away in disgust from the militants. “I am a Hindu myself,” Indian television talk-show host Rajiv Bajaj says. “Hinduism is a strong, ancient, rich tradition. Are we so insecure about our identity and heritage that it should lead to this kind of mindlessness? First the Sikhs, then the Muslims, now the Christians. Where does it end?”
Columnist Karan Thapar, meanwhile, believes “the time has come for the silent majority of Hindus—both those who ardently practice their faith as well as those who were born into it but may not be overtly religious or devout—to speak out.” They will find ready allies in Christians, who have blessed India since the first century, building schools, feeding the hungry, and standing up for the God-given dignity of all people. And we will continue to do so, come what may from the terrorists.

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Radical Hindus step up attacks on Christians (chicagotribune.com)

Posted by jytmkh on September 29, 2008

The Tribune’s Kim Barker writes that India, a nation of many religions, struggles to overcome sectarian strife

MANGALORE, India — On their fifth day of silent prayer, the nuns of the Adoration Monastery heard the pounding in the public chapel next door, the sounds of glass shattering and the statue of Jesus being broken. After the sacrament crashed to the floor, the nuns found their voices. They screamed and called for Jesus.

The attack was one of many by radical Hindus against Christians over the past six weeks in India, a nation striving for religious tolerance but wrestling with bouts of sectarian strife that seem at odds with its drive to become a modern world power.

In the eastern state of Orissa, the country’s worst clashes, sparked by the slaying of a prominent Hindu priest, have paralyzed the state and killed at least 20 people. In the past two weeks, the violence has spread to six other states, including southwestern Karnataka and the coastal town of Mangalore.

The clashes have polarized many Christians and Hindus nationwide. Radical Hindu groups accuse Christians of killing the priest and converting Hindus, especially those from lower castes.

Christians say they have become the victims of anti-minority campaigns designed to win votes for the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, the pro-Hindu main opposition political party, in national elections next year. The party just won control of Karnataka four months ago.

“It is very inhuman, what is going on,” said Mother Superior Mary Carmel, 57, of the Adoration Monastery, a convent where the 10 nuns leave only to vote or for medical care. “What we find is the government is totally against us. Instead of helping us, the police are victimizing us.”

Many religions converge
In many ways, India is a multireligious marvel, with a Sikh prime minister, a Hindu president and a Roman Catholic ruling-party leader. Indian coins proclaim “national integration,” and TV commercials celebrate harmony between religions. But since India gained independence from the British in 1947, violence has flared every decade or so between the Hindu majority and Muslims, Christians or Sikhs.

Now, as India sets its sights on becoming a world economic power, such violence is a major embarrassment. Many moderates here question whether the country will ever accept a person’s right to religious freedom, guaranteed by the constitution.

The central government has been blamed for allowing the violence to continue. This month, New Delhi officials warned the Orissa and Karnataka governments to stop attacks on Christians or face dismissal. Still, more churches have been ransacked.

Hindu fundamentalists say converts from Hinduism are somehow less Indian than Hindus. Seven states, including Orissa, ban conversion.

“The converted Christians, the converted Muslims, become cruel,” said M.B. Puranik, an official with the radical Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP, and in charge of the party in the Mangalore area. “Their nationhood, their loyalty, is not to the nation. Their loyalty is to the Vatican. Their loyalty is to Allah. Conversion is the enemy of the nation.”

Catholic officials deny actively recruiting. Evangelical groups, especially in the south, have been very active trying to find converts, in one case setting up an illegal Christian orphanage after the tsunami for Hindu orphans. But Alwyn Colaco, a pastor with the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in Mangalore, denied that anyone is forced into Christianity.

“That is a No. 1 lie, the No. 1 biggest lie,” he said. “Everyone’s free to propagate their religion. People are given enough time to evaluate and choose what they want.”

About 2.3 percent of Indians are Christian, compared with 80.4 percent Hindus, according to the 2001 census. In the 1961 census, 2.4 percent of Indians were Christian.

Violence may worsen

Anti-Christian violence could worsen in the run-up to parliamentary elections next year, analysts say, citing past experience. The BJP grew from a minor party to the major opposition party 16 years ago, largely through pro-Hindu policies that sparked riots. The party has been accused of being complicit in violence against both Muslims and Christians to win votes.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, the national BJP spokesman, said riots were unfortunate but blamed clashes on the conversion efforts and the death of the Hindu priest. He accused Christians in Karnataka of handing out pamphlets insulting Hindu gods. He denied that the BJP used communal divisions to manipulate voters.

“That is wholly wrong, a motivated campaign, patently false,” Prasad said.

V.S. Acharya, home minister of Karnataka, told journalists last week that the central government crackdown on the violence was an “overreaction.” As home minister, he is in charge of police in the state. Acharya also met with Hindu priests demanding the state ban conversion.

Ashit Mohan Prasad, the police official who oversees Mangalore and three districts of Karnataka hit by the anti-Christian violence, said police were independent and doing everything possible to prevent future clashes.

But nationwide, police and government officials have hardly been proactive. In Orissa, mobs rioted for weeks and sectarian violence raged on in spots late last week.

In Mangalore, Hindu activists first started beating anyone suspected of killing cows, considered holy, and any non-Hindu man caught talking to a Hindu woman. Then they planted yellow flags, a pro-Hindu symbol, on Cross Hill, amid 14 Christian crosses.

On Sept. 14, 20 churches and prayer halls were attacked at the same time in three districts. The leader of the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the VHP, called a news conference to claim responsibility. He was not arrested for more than five days—and only after the national government issued its warning.

Though the vandals hit one Catholic church—the Holy Adoration—and focused mainly on evangelical prayer halls, Catholics across Mangalore clashed with police for two days.

Three nuns ended up in the hospital. One had stitches over her left eye after being hit with a rock or a tear gas canister while standing on the steps of a church. Two, more than 60 years old, said they were beaten by police while inside Catholic schools. Police are investigating claims of brutality.

Many Christians urged forgiveness and calm, but others said they had suffered enough. Church member Celine Lawrance, 76, said she had received many miracles praying at Holy Adoration. She wanted one more.

“God has to punish them,” she said. “This is my prayer.”

kbarker@tribune.com

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INDIA: VIOLENCE SPREADS TO FIVE MORE STATES

Posted by jytmkh on September 19, 2008

Another man killed, more houses and churches attacked in Orissa’s Kandhamal district.

NEW DELHI, September 16 (Compass Direct News) – A policeman was killed today, the body of another victim of Hindu extremist violence was discovered and more houses and churches burned in Orissa state’s Kandhamal district even as anti-Christian violence spread to at least five more states across India over the weekend.

 

Christians and churches were targeted in Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand as fallout from violence in Orissa that began following the assassination of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) leader, Laxmanananda Saraswati, and four of his disciples in Kandhamal district on August 23.

 

A mob of around 500 rioters today killed a policeman and burned down a police station in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, where Hindu extremists launched a spate of attacks three weeks ago blaming local Christians of killing Saraswati and his disciples. Maoists have claimed responsibility for the murders of the Hindu leaders.

 

“A large number of attackers armed with country-made guns and crude weapons gunned down a constable and set ablaze the police station at Gochapada early this morning,” Director General of Police Gopal Nanda told The Indian Express. Gochapada is 36 kilometers (22 miles) from Phulbani, the district headquarters of Kandhamal.

 

Police sources told the daily that the mob was demanding release of a man held by security personnel, but local residents felt the attack came in retaliation for police firing into a crowd in Kurtamgarh in Tumudibandh area, killing at least one person, on Saturday (Sept. 13).

 

Murder in Orissa

While the body of another person was found and at least 14 houses were burned on Sunday night (Sept. 14), a church and several houses were set ablaze on the previous day.

 

The Statesman newspaper reported that at least nine houses of Makabali village and five in Sanakbali village were torched in the Gunjibadi area. Authorities found the body of Purander Naik, who had fled to a relief camp where mainly Christians had taken refuge, in his village of Nilungia.

 

“The decomposed body of Naik was found by police near the Ratingia dam yesterday,” the newspaper reported yesterday. “Naik was at the G. Udayagiri relief camp for over 10 days but had left for his village to see the condition of his house and poultry. His family was at the relief camp. Apparently he was killed during his visit to the village.”

 

The Press Trust of India reported that while nine houses were torched in Toposi village, another house was burned in Dibadi village under the Raikia police station in Kandhamal.

 

The Rev. Ashis Parida of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) reported that more than 2,000 Hindu extremists set fire to a church belonging to the Church of North India (CNI) denomination and several houses of Christians in Kurtamgarh village on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 13). Kurtamgarh is about seven kilometers (four miles) from the ashram (religious center) of Hindu leader Saraswati.

 

Compass received reports that a Hindu extremist mob on Friday (Sept. 12) burned one church and a mission hostel in Mangapanga, Tumulibandh; three churches in Mundabali, Badipankha; and one church in Baringia in Phulbani. An estimated 40 houses were also destroyed on the same day by the intolerant Hindus.

 

The next afternoon a large Hindu extremist mob descended on Kurtamgarh, burning several houses and the CNI Church. Sources said the extremists were targeting the village headman of the area, a Christian whose house they destroyed.

 

A local source said that “while the mob was attacking the Christian homes and churches, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) forces took notice of it and fired in the air to disperse the crowd. To their surprise the mob retaliated with gunfire aimed at the CRPF, which wounded two soldiers of the CRPF, one of whom was reported to be quite serious and had to be taken to Behrampur for his medical treatment.”

 

The CRPF forces retaliated with gunfire of their own, killing one person and injuring about 12. Early reports suggested that two people had died in the CRPF firing, but only one body was said to be recovered by the CRPF after the incident.

 

Krishan Kumar, district collector of Kandhamal, told media that on that day, “At least 400-500 people, some of them carrying firearms, attacked a man’s home and set it on fire at Kurtamgarh village.”

 

While the state government says 24 people, mainly Christian, have died in the Orissa violence, the All India Christian Council (AICC) maintained that 45 Christians were confirmed dead and five more were still missing.

 

According to the AICC, 14 districts of Orissa witnessed violence with Kandhamal as the epicenter. It reported at least 50,000 people from 300 villages have been affected by the violence, with hundreds still hiding in forests, and 4,000 houses and 115 churches burned or destroyed.

 

Death in Relief Camps

At least 20,000 people are in the 14 relief camps set up by the state government in Kandhamal. Two elderly persons and two children are known to have died in three of the relief camps.

 

The Statesman reported that while two ailing men, 75-year-old Sua Naik from Budrungia village and 66-year-old Kasipatra Naik from Tatamaha village, died at the Raikia relief camp, two children, one from the Phulbani camp and the other from G. Udayagiri camp, died during the week.

 

One of the children was reportedly a 10-year-old girl who had been hiding in the forest since the violence began who died from disease attained by being constantly on the run. The name of the girl was not known, but she was said to be from Kotgarh.

 

The Statesman also reported that the chief secretary of Orissa state, Ajit Tripathy, held a review meeting yesterday to discuss health and sanitation measures at the relief camps.

 

Orissa is ruled by a coalition of a regional party, Biju Janata Dal, and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

 

Attacks in Karnataka

Attacks were reported also from the southern state of Karnataka, where Hindu extremists ratcheted up hostilities after the state education ministry served show-cause notices to over 2,000 Christian schools in the state for staying shut on Aug. 29 to protest the violence against Christians in Orissa.

 

On Sunday (Sept. 14), Hindu extremists attacked several churches in Karnataka’s district of Dakshina Kannada, in Udupi and Chikmagalur, on the pretext that Christians were engaging in “forcible” conversions of Hindus to Christianity.

 

In Dakshina Kannada district, suspected extremists from the Bajrang Dal, VHP’s youth wing, attacked the Adoration Monastery near the Milagres Church on Falnir Road in Mangalore region.

 

“The 10-member group barged into the prayer hall and damaged the tabernacle, where the holy Eucharist is kept,” reported the Times of India. “They damaged windowpanes, furniture as well as the crucifix. Police said the same group attempted to vandalize another prayer hall in Kankanady, but were driven back.”

 

The daily added that Christians later gathered in large numbers in front of the Milagres Hall to protest the attacks, which resulted in a day-long stand off between the protestors, who reportedly hurled stones at the police, with officers using batons in return. Several vehicles were damaged in the tussle.

 

In Udupi district, three churches of the New Life Fellowship were attacked by suspected Bajrang Dal extremists while Sunday prayers were in progress, reported the daily. At least 15 Hindu extremists entered its prayer hall, attacking worshippers and ransacking the hall during the worship service. A music system and projector were damaged.

 

In Shiroor area, Hindu extremists attacked another prayer hall of the New Life Fellowship, burning a vehicle and striking some members of the congregation, including the pastor.

 

The daily reported another attack on a church in Mudur, near Kollur, resulted in damaged materials. It added that police prevented yet another such attack in prayer halls of the New Life Fellowship in Kaup and Karkala areas.

 

In Chikmagalur district, extremists attacked three churches and the house of a new convert. “In one incident, 15 activists came in a vehicle and barged into Harvest India church in Makkikoppa near Jayapura in Koppa Taluka [Block] in the morning and assaulted a parishioner and the Protestant pastor,” the daily reported. “They broke the window panes and the plastic chairs.”

 

On Sunday night (Sept. 14), a mob attacked a prayer hall in the Padavu Pre-University College on the Mangalore-Udupi Road.

 

Yesterday morning, Hindu extremists attacked a shop in Kalladka village and the St. Ann’s Friary Grotto near Canara College, about 25 kilometers (almost 16 miles) from Mangalore, in two separate incidents. A Christian prayer hall in Chickballapur district, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Bangalore, also was attacked.

 

Some Christians reportedly retaliated by targeting policemen in different parts of Dakshina Kannada district. At least four policemen were injured, with one reportedly stabbed yesterday.

 

According to Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), police arrested about 100 people, almost all Christians, for staging allegedly violent protests.

 

Hindu extremists also attacked churches in Belthangady, Moodabidri, Koloor, Kodaikal, Hemanagatta, Kadur and Puttur, Kundapur and Balehanoor. All together 18 churches and prayer halls in and around Mangalore and in Udipi and Chikmaglur districts were attacked on Sunday (Sept. 14).

 

Police reportedly had arrested seven Bajrang Dal members by Sunday night. Schools and shops remained shut in Mangalore yesterday in protest, and vehicles were kept off the roads. Christians continued to protest, and in some places police had to fire tear gas shells to maintain order. A curfew was imposed in Mangalore as well.

 

But that did not stop Hindu extremists from throwing stones at a church in Mangalore yesterday morning, in spite of an order the previous day banning assembly of more than five people for three days. Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa stoked fires by stating, “There is no room for forcible conversion in democracy. No one should indulge in it.”

 

Asked what action he was going to take against the Bajrang Dal during a press conference yesterday evening, the chief minister said only, “Whoever was involved in this act will be arrested very soon.”

 

But he was quick to blame church groups, saying “No one has the right to insult any other religion. As we know some community called ‘New Life’ is converting people, we have asked the bishop to support us in this regard. But as per the bishop, New Life is not under his control and the bishop is not the in charge of this community.”

 

There was little to suggest the involvement of New Life Fellowship churches in forced conversion. NDTV 24X7, a national television news channel reported that “so far there seems to be little evidence that New Life is carrying out forcible conversions.”

 

A team from the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) will reportedly make an on-the-spot assessment of attacks on churches and prayer halls in different parts of Karnataka and submit its report to the federal government. Members will visit churches damaged in attacks in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Chikmagalur districts, as well as Mangalore.

 

Bajrang Dal representatives unabashedly admitted to the violence that was carried out on Sunday (Sept. 14), telling NDTV 24X7 that they are targeting evangelical groups in and around Mangalore.

 

Violence in Other States

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Bajrang Dal extremists on Sunday (Sept. 14) attacked two pastors in Kanpur district, accusing them of beating their supporters, reported IANS.

 

Govindnagar police station inspector N.K. Singh told IANS that the pastor of the New India Church of God, Jitendra Singh, approached officers late Sunday night and submitted a written complaint against Ram Babu Bajpai, a local leader of the Bajrang Dal.

Pastor Singh said Bajpai, along with a large number of his supporters, attacked him in the church compound in the presence of his wife, Helena Singh, and fellow pastor Anil Gilbert.

Both sides filed complaints.

According to the complaint by the Hindu extremists, “The Bajrang Dal has alleged that the church was involved in converting Hindus to Christianity by offering them money, and the pastors attacked them when its activists opposed the practice,” IANS added.

 

In the north-central state of Madhya Pradesh, at 1:30 p.m. today five unidentified people carrying air guns shot a guard of the Caramel Convent in Banduha village (under the Ghatia police station) in Ujjain district, Madhya Pradesh state. Father Anand Muttungal of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Madhya Pradesh state reported that Amar Singh’s injuries were not fatal.

 

Fr. Muttungal said that the culprits asked Singh to call the nuns, and when he told them they were away the assailants beat and shot him.

 

Hindu extremists in Madhya Pradesh also burned the 80-year-old Masihi Mandir church of the CNI denomination in Chhawni (Cantonment) area of Indore city at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 13), reported EFI.

 

“The fire was spotted by a few onlookers, who managed to extinguish it quickly,” EFI reported. “The doors, windows and other wooden material were burned.”

 

In the southern state of Kerala, on Sunday night (Sept. 14) Hindu extremists attacked the Jaya Mata Convent School, a Christian kindergarten that doubled as a church in Kottakkani area in Kasargode district under the Catholic diocese of Teleicherry, reported the Times of India.

 

The Hindu extremists launched the attack to protest conversions.

 

“On Monday morning, we saw the glass panes of a box containing the figure of Mother Mary, as well as window panes of the school, smashed,” Vicar Antony Punnoor told the daily. “It seemed someone had hurled stones.”

 

The Kerala state interior minister, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, told the daily that the incident would be investigated.

 

“Cops would also examine if the attack had any link with such incidents in Karnataka,” he reportedly said. “No one will be allowed to create communal riots in the state.”

 

In the western state of Jharkhand, Hindu villagers attacked Christians of a Believers’ Church and pressured them to “reconvert” to Hinduism in Talatad village (under Patratu police station) in Hazaribagh district on Sunday (Sept. 14), reported the Christian Legal Association.

 

Pastor Cyril Tamgaria and 18 others were worshiping in the house of Badhi Oraon when Hindu extremists surrounded the house. They beat them, took them forcibly to a temple in a nearby jungle and asked them to “return” to their old faith. Local Christians reported the incident to police, however, and officers freed the Christians.

 

The Rev. Dr. Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Catholic Church in India, said in a statement that the Christian community in India has been conducting itself in a peaceful manner throughout the ordeals, and “even under extreme provocation it has exercised restraint.”

 

“It is not to be construed as weakness,” he said, “but a preferred option based on sound principles of civilized living.”

 

Joseph added that the community continued to render its services to all sectors of society without discrimination.

 

“Nevertheless, baseless allegations of fraudulent conversion have long been hurled at it by certain vested interests whose chief agenda seems to be social polarization on the lines of religious beliefs,” he said. “We, as responsible citizens of India, will not succumb to their divisive tactics, but continue to work, in the spirit of Christ our master, for the unity, integrity and progress of the nation.”

 

SIDEBAR

 

Women’s Group Pans Official Assessment of Orissa

Dismissing claims by government officials, the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) reported that their findings from a visit to Orissa’s Kandhamal district last week did match statements made by the central and state governments before the Supreme Court.

 

Annie Raja, general secretary of the NFIW, told media that the team she led to the riot-torn district Sept. 9-12 concluded that a judicial inquiry was inadequate to uncover abuses.

 

The NFIW demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the killing of Laxmanananda Saraswati and subsequent riots in Kandhamal district. The organization’s report notes that the situation in the district was tense and a sense of security was absent among the Christian minority community.

 

Calling conditions in the relief camps “pathetic,” with about 20,000 people living with inadequate medical facilities, Raja reportedly said that camps with more than 700 children and around 30 pregnant women did not have a pediatrician or a gynecologist.

 

The NFIW demanded that civil society organizations and women’s organizations be allowed to participate in relief and rehabilitation operations.

 

Orissa officials have asked the central government to allow the state to retain central and paramilitary forces until the end of October in light of approaching festivals.

 

Home Secretary T.K. Mishra has described the situation in Kandhamal as “satisfactory” and requested the recall of the Border Security Force, as “they did not fit into the situation” in Orissa. He added, however, that the state needed Central Reserve Police Force and Rapid Action Force personnel to deal with any rioting. He also acknowledged that sporadic violence was taking place in some villages of the Kandhamal district.

 

END

Copyright © 2008 Compass Direct News

Posted in Karnataka, Orissa | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Was the carnage in Orissa necessary?

Posted by jytmkh on September 18, 2008

From Merinews (http://www.merinews.com/catFull.jsp?title=Was%20the%20carnage%20in%20Orissa%20necessary?&articleID=141445)

By rhapsodysinger

JEWISH HISTORY is a history of Holocausts. The final destruction of the Temple marked just the beginning of the trials of the ordinary Jew. No wonder then, that the greatest Jew of all time is just a Marginal Jew. It is this idea of marginality or, in the Indian context — subalternity that distinguishes the path of this Marginal Jew. And the Lord of History has to repeatedly allow persecutions to beset those whom He loves to draw them closer to him once again. The real Panopticon is that of God’s who did not hesitate to crucify His own Son for the sake of defeating structures of sin. The ultimate woof of history belongs to God. It is keeping these aspects of the godhead and Jewish history that we should search for reasons for the carnage that is even now happening in Orissa. I write as a staunch Hindu, who nonetheless, believes in Jesus as my ’Ishta Devta’ and the Church as the rock on which the Kingdom of God is established. In other words, I witness as a Hindu Brahmin the wonders and the mysteries of Christ.

There are two angles to this simmering hatred that is boiling over in my nation: One is highly academic and thus, of only scholarly value; the other one is more plebian and thus, much more important for our discussion here.

 
After Vatican II the Church in India actively seeks to establish cultural roots here. There exists a large corpus of Christian theological exegesis which bolsters what is now known in seminary-circles as ’inculturation’. There is an ever increasing demand for dialogue and condemnation of what is termed as Hindutva. In other words, the Church desires to contextualise Hindu praxis within Her own matrix, namely, the liturgical practices of the Catholic Church in India. Putting it a bit more academically, the Roman Church in India wants to create a new grand narrative in contextualisation which deliberately wants to erase the old nakedly Eurocentric thrusts. At least, this is how the Church sees itself.

Even a cursory glance at the available Catholic apologetics of our times reveal this much instantly. How does it go about executing this erasure of the old ways and the construction of new paradigms sensitive to the Indian ethos? This has been done with great visual and aural effects in three ways: through the changing of the age-old habits of the religious from European soutanes to saris and ochre robes of the Hindu sannyasis; adding Sanskrit songs and chants within the liturgy in the Latin rite and lastly, by creating Hindu temple like structures where the Virgin and the Lord are made too look like Hindu deities. And often on Sundays, one finds the religious at the Church doors, speaking in Hindu terms to their parishioners: Jai Yesu, for example. Then there is the endless discussion of Hinduism in seminaries and courses galore on comparative religions in Papal Seminaries throughout India. These are what the Church in India thinks as legitimate endeavours of a free people.

Let us now in all fairness see how these efforts are construed at the grass root level. Why should the Church do this and not simply condemn the barbaric and heinous nature of the assaults in Orissa? Why should she concede that fundamentalists are not the only ones to blame? The answer lies in Church history, suffering often has a message. May be there is too much counter-witnessing within the Church. When demoniac men burn alive other women and men, then the former need not be discussed in conciliatory terms but rather delegated to penal systems to see them punished suitably. What is this message? Is it possible that inculturation is simply not working in India?

The much touted dialogue in the Church is in reality only monologue. Hinduism is fundamentally a non-celibate religion. The Church being top-heavy in India naturally draws Hindu monks in its efforts to reach out to Hindus. While certainly the Church runs much coveted educational institutions all over India; they simply serve to weaken the Church here. It is true that most students in such institutions are Hindus but notice how often their parents are offended by seemingly powerful headmasters and principals. Notice how often these same women and men of the cloth are seen posing in photographs with business-scions and politicians. Also notice the unavailability of these same education-religious within the local social structures of the places where they live. And these are the most numerous amongst Indian Catholic religious.

The Catholic Church in India is certainly perceived as an educational behemoth which is elitist and exclusive in Her choice of pupils. The Church in India is firmly entrenched within a vicious circle of paradoxes and thus, runs the risk of being termed a chameleon which preaches sacrifices but serves hedonism. Walk into any of the urban schools and colleges run by the religious in India and all the efforts of the rural religious in inculturation will immediately seem hypocritical to even the least conscientious of men. How is it possible that those who profess Sanyasa, those who vow renunciation of the world and its pomps, live like feudal lords in the fiefdoms that are their institutions? So the average man on the streets lusts after the coveted seats provided by these established places of learning while at the same time cringing at the tortures and humiliations that the process of entry to these places often entails. It never helps that the Church in India keeps on boasting about the service it so kindly renders to the Hindu populace. This Janus-nature of the Indian Church, this deplorable polarisation between the much more honest rural Church and the Pharisaical urban Indian Church is its undoing here. The whiff of double-standards defeats any efforts at inculturation.

This is not to condone the violence that rocks my fellowmen. Yet my response is one of faith in both the truths of Hinduism and Catholicism. Everything that happens, happens only because God allows it and God speaks to us through daily occurrances. More than the hierarchy who suffer, it is the ordinary Christian who is persecuted. Let the Church note this.

The academic explanation for this violence should not only be located in the idea of anti-conversion laws in India or the rise of the so-called Hindutva. By being seminary limited and imitative of Western, South American theology movements, Indian theologians have created a morass of dead theologies which subtly bypass the more lived elements of both Catholicism and Hinduism. By blindly accepting Indian society’s structural injustices as given, Catholic theology in India seems always resistant to understanding Hindu sentiments which see this discourse merely as another western diatribe. Indian Catholic theology is merely a rehash of western movements and draws its inspiration from Patristic sources rather than any genuine appreciation of Anekattavadas.

Thus, the whole idea of studying Hinduism is defeated in Indian clerical circles. There are no Hindus really involved in this experiment. Everything is reduced to changes of names from erstwhile European ones to new Sanskrit ones. This nominalist effort as claiming everything Christian in India as ontologically native just remains polemical and superficial.

May be God wants to send a message across to the Indian Church to be more loyal to the Gospels first and then inculturate. And as a Church of praying people in pilgrimage across this vale of tears, I request your prayers for my Hindu brothers who are persecuting you. Father, they do not know what they do.

Om Shanti.

Posted in Orissa | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Compensation package sought for violence victims

Posted by jytmkh on September 18, 2008

BHUBANESWAR (ICNS): A forum working for religious minorities says victims of communal violence in Orissa need to be compensated with package similar to that announced for victims of anti-Sikh riots.
 
Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday the National Minority Front officials said Orissa government should chalk out a plan and package that would compensate for loss livelihood besides compensating for loss of land, houses and lives.

The Front is a non-government organization. Its officials including state unit official S. N. Patro wanted chief minister permit NGOs and church people to reach relief to the villages and assist the violence hit people in the process of re-building.

A “fear psychosis” remains in the affected village, according to Bishop D. K. Sahu, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India.

The prelate said chief minister refused to conduct a CBI probe into the violence. He also said banning violent Hindu outfits serves no purposes because they will emerge again taking different names. But he said state should check people who are spreading hatred.

The Church leaders and intellectuals from all religions earlier in the day held “call for harmony” program, reiterating the secular nature of Indian nation.

Speakers at the meeting stressed the secular character of Indian constitution and the need of society respecting people of different religious traditions.

Christian leaders at the meeting, coming from across India, demanded action against police and administrative officials who failed to carry out their duties and responsibilities.

They also urged the government to set up a minority commission in the State to restore self-confidence and sense of security among people belonging to minority communities.(Indian Catholic)

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INDIA Christians, Others Demand Ban On Hindu Extremist Groups As Anti-Christian Violence Spreads

Posted by jytmkh on September 15, 2008

NEW DELHI (UCAN) — Christian and other groups in India have demanded a ban on some Hindu radical organizations as anti-Christian violence spread to more states.

5736_1.jpg 
Catholic nuns form a human chain on Sept. 7 in Mangalore, southern India, to protest anti-Christian violence in Orissa.

Anti-Christian violence prompted communist groups, the Lok Janashakti Party (people’s power party), the All India Christian Council, Christian Social Forum and others to issue separate calls for a ban on Bajrang Dal (party of the strong and stout) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, world Hindu council).

The BJP is considered the political arm of these and other groups that want to turn India into a Hindu theocratic nation. A ban could abolish parties or prohibit them from functioning.

Hindu extremists reportedly attacked Sunday worshippers at a Protestant church in Karnataka on Sept. 7. Two days later the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people’s party) marked its first 100 days in power in the southern Indian state.

On that same day, fire destroyed a Protestant church in Madhya Pradesh, a central state the BJP has ruled since December 2003. The British had built the church in 1922 in Ratlam, some 700 kilometers south of New Delhi.

David Samuel told UCA News he and other parishioners had decorated the church to celebrate 86 years when fire gutted it. Police blamed a short circuit for the fire, but Samuel said he suspects Hindu radicals.

Attacks on Christians and their institutions were also reported in September from Chhattisgarh in central India and Gujarat and Rajasthan along the western coast, all BJP-ruled states. Currently, the BJP also rules Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal state in northern India. It is also a ruling coalition partner in Bihar and Orissa in the east, and Punjab in the north.

The most recent incidents occurred against the backdrop of violence against Christians in Orissa state following the Aug. 23 killings of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, an 85-year-old Hindu religious leader, and four associates. Maoists have claimed responsibility for this, but Hindu radicals blame Christians nonetheless.

Since Aug. 24, the violence in Orissa has killed at least 27 people, most of them Christians. Mobs of Hindu extremists also destroyed some 4,000 Christian homes and several churches, presbyteries and convents. Tens of thousands of Christians hid in forests for safety amid the violence.

On Sept. 6, the Orissa unit of the VHP defied a prohibition against holding a memorial program for Swami Saraswati, who had campaigned against Christian missioners for decades in Orissa’s Kandhamal district.

Sources and media reports said several Hindu monks at that memorial meeting for the slain Hindu leader took a special vow to eradicate Christians from Kandhamal district.

Swami Satchidananda Maharaj, the Hindu monk who presided over the meeting, announced the decision to form vigilance committees in all Orissa villages to oppose Hindu conversion to Christianity.

ia_bangalore.gifSwami Bhagwan Das, another speaker, accused Christians of killing Swami Saraswati and said the act challenged the entire Hindu society.

Another monk, Swami Arupananda Maharaj, also described the murder as an attack on Hinduism and called for Hindus to counter the move to make India a Christian nation.

Christian groups dismiss the allegations as baseless and aimed at inciting sectarian violence that could polarize voters ahead of the country’s next general election, due in early 2009.

Father John Fernandes, professor of Christian Studies at Mangalore University in Karnataka, says the anti-Christian incidents are part of “planned strategies” to garner votes. “In terms of votes Christians are insignificant, but for uniting Hindus, the hate campaign is significant for them,” the priest told UCA News on Sept. 10.

Father Fernandes regretted that “success” in one place motivates the Hindu radicals to test the strategy in other areas. He also expressed anguish over “destructive elements creeping into Hindu organizations,” saying these people promote violence against religious minorities as a model.

Maria David, who works for Indo Global Social Service Society, also says Hindu groups in Karnataka have launched a hate campaign against Christians after the state came under BJP rule.

Meanwhile, Christians held rallies across Karnataka on Sept. 7 to protest anti-Christian violence. In Mangalore, 2,290 kilometers south of New Delhi, Christians, Hindus and Muslims organized a hunger strike and formed a human chain.

END

Posted in Karnataka, Orissa | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Bharat Mata is stifled by saffron

Posted by jytmkh on September 15, 2008

Ponni Arasu

I write this piece sitting in the capital of the only south Indian state which is ruled by the BJP. Within a few months of the BJP coming to power, the repercussions are crystal clear. Saffron shines through every nook and corner of this IT hub, which is already struggling to deal with  a range of inequalities. Churches, Christian schools and Muslim and Christian individuals  and communities are being attacked regularly in the state. The pattern is familiar. The Nazi model is sound and can be replicated anywhere and thus Karnataka is now replicating the realities of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Human rights activists, researchers and lawyers working on arrange of issue are beginning to come together to prepare for a long tussle with Hindu fundamentalist forces.   I wish this dramatic narration was an exaggeration. What is it that brings rights activists across the board together when it comes to Hindu fundamentalism in India? Is it just the magnitude of the issue that has hit us violently in the past? That seems to be too inadequate a reason. The essential reason is that the Hindutva ideology believes in building ONE kind of nation. In this nation there will be Hindus and those who agree to live subservient to the Hindus. These Hindus are also not a generic category. To be Indian is to be Hindu. The ideal Hindu is a ‘healthy’, upper caste, rich, heterosexual man. All other Hindus exist to assist in the life of this “complete man”. This man is to then ‘guard’ ‘mother India’.  It is these self-appointed ‘guardians’ of the nation who attacked cinema halls across the country which screened Deepa Mehta’s lesbian-themed film Fire. One such ‘guardian’ is vehemently contesting the challenge to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises the existence and the lives of LGBT persons, in the Delhi high Court. This is part of the long strenuous relationship between Hindu fundamentalists and sexuality rights activists in India. This relationship is not just a contestation over simpler questions of sexuality identities or practices. It is a question of culture and nation. Fire, they screamed, showcased things that are against Indian culture, as is Valentine’s day celebrations or even Eid and Christmas as they might soon declare. Poorer Hindu and Muslim men and women, those not part of the  Archies cards version of ‘love’, but who sneak away to local parks to whisper sweet nothings or just converse casually are assaulted by the ‘guardians’. Art exhibitions are ransacked and all those involved physically hurt for allegedly ‘disrespecting’ the ‘gods’ , who apparently cannot be, at any cost, imagined or portrayed by anyone else but the ‘guardians’, in a manner that they decide.  These ‘guardians’ are not just here to guard what they believe is theirs. They are here to decide how we ALL live; who we love, which gods we pray to and how. If you dare to exist any other way, you are to die. And die not as an individual but as a community. The list of people the VHP, Bajrang Dal or RSS attack in India today is eerily similar to those sent to concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Communists there — human rights activists here. Binayak Sen is a case in point. Jews there — Muslims, Christians, dalits, tribals and god knows how many other communities here. Both lists have one thing, literally, in common — homosexuals. The similarity between these lists is not a coincidence and does not end there. They have in common the focus on propaganda, the belief in violence and acts of social good (education and other welfare) as a tool to breed hatred of the imagined ‘other’.  This imagined ‘other’ in effect is each and every person who believes in the right to make one’s own choices in terms of god, work, love and life. This ‘other’ is one who believes that all human beings deserve equal opportunities and equal rights to live their lives with respect and dignity. This ‘other’ captures the spirit of the Indian constitution and our long history of social struggles for justice and equality.  It is the ‘guardians of this nation’ who seem to be out of place. What gave them the right to fix our ‘culture’? A culture is one that has space for everyone, equally irrespective of their caste, class, region, religion, gender or sexuality. It is this culture that gave us the sensuous sculptures of Khajuraho, the Kama Sutra, the love story of the Sufi saint Nizamuddin and Amir Khusro. It gave us the paintings of M F Hussain and movies like My brother Nikhil. This culture made space for queer columns in popular newspapers! Culture is an entity that is to give space for all those who choose to be part of it to change, transform and build so as to ensure warmth, love and camaraderie.

 

Whatever may be the violent dreams and  aspirations of these  alleged ‘guardians’, lives and struggles will go on with heads held high and hearts that have the courage to love. “Hate is more lasting than dislike”, said Adolf Hitler but then again “love will keep us alive and kicking!” (Expressbuzz)

 

Ponni Arasu  is a queer, feminist  activist and researcher  and currently works with  the Alternative Law Forum,  Bangalore. She can  be contacted at  ponni@altlawforum.org

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Communal rage: New face of violence

Posted by jytmkh on September 15, 2008

NEW DELHI: The communal violence and retaliation by security forces claiming two more lives in Kandhmal in Orissa on Saturday, and Bajrang Dal-led attacks on Christians in Davanagere and Chikmagalur in Karnataka, no longer appear to be isolated incidents. Conversion related violence is on the rise and tantamount to opening up of yet another front apart from the ones that jolt us out of our revery now and then: Islamist terrorism and Maoist extremism.

The attacks on Christians are being sought to be justified on the ground that people are being forcibly converted from Hinduism or tribalism to Christianity.

But on closer scrutiny, it appears the issue isn’t merely of conversion. In Kandhmal, for instance, it’s the increasing prosperity of the Dalit Panas after they converted to Christianity that seems to have become a trigger for violence against them.

In times of blind hatred, there is no independent verification of the charge levelled by the majority Kandha tribals against the Dalit Panas: that they claim Hinduism as their religion in certificates for job benefits as SCs but practice Christianity for a jump in their social profile. Orissa has the highest percentage of Hindu population of all the states, almost 95%.

While Hindu numbers have decreased marginally over the last three decades, there has been a corresponding increase in Christian population. This possibly points at the cause — but not the justification — for the attacks against Orissa’s Christians.

In West Bengal’s Nadia district, the last reported instance of violence against Christians was on Christmas 2002, when a priest and 14 others were injured after a group of about 50 armed men attacked the church during the special midnight mass.

They threatened about 1,000 worshippers with dire consequence if they didn’t immediately disperse. Says George Pattery, head of Jesuits of Kolkata, “Sitting in West Bengal, we can’t imagine the struggle that missionaries are going through in Orissa. They are being targeted because they have been able to bring a change in the lives of the poorest of the poor. However, as always we will continue with our work.” In Karnataka, where a couple of days before the Davanagere prayer hall was torched, the local administration locked up two churches in the town.

Two students of Bible college too were attacked. Says former Bangalore city police chief and BJP MP H T Sangliana, who voted with the UPA on the July 22 trust vote, “The impression among people is that the attacks on Christians have increased since the BJP government came to power in the state. The freedom of religion has been violated.” He refutes the charge of conversion against the missionaries and says, “No one has produced any evidence.” In Chhattisgarh, a relatively unknown group of fundamentalists, Dharma Sena, has been periodically attacking Christian congregations and prayer meetings.

On Christmas eve in 2007, Pastor James and 10 other Christians were beaten up by “Dharma Sena” lumpens. Then, only last week, four Catholic nuns were forced to get off a train at Durg railway station along with four infants by Dharma Sena activists who claimed the children were Hindu and were being taken for religious conversion.

It later came to light that the babies were willingly handed over to the nuns of Missionaries of Charity by unwed mothers. Religious conversion is a social issue needing address by community leaders through dialogue.
Its degeneration into violence is a reflection on the shrinking liberal space where all differences are sought to be sorted out through physical intimidation and, worse, liquidation. (TOI)

 

Posted in Catholics, Karnataka, Orissa | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

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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