India: Anti-Christian Violence Soars in Karnataka

By: Elizabeth Kendal

Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) recorded 72 attacks on Christians in India's southern state of Karnataka in 2009, the most of any Indian state. According to Compass Direct (CD), this year's record is 'keeping pace'.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 042 | Wed 10 Feb 2010

INDIA: ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE SOARS IN KARNATAKA           

Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) recorded 72 attacks on Christians in India's southern state of Karnataka in 2009, the most of any Indian state. According to Compass Direct (CD), this year's record is 'keeping pace'. CD quotes Dr Babu Joseph, spokesperson for the Catholic Bishop's Conference of India (CBCI), as confirming that Christians in Karnataka are being attacked 'at rapid regularity' and 'with near impunity', and that it is 'a serious matter of concern for the Christian community' (CD 4 February). Justice Michael F Saldanha, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court told CD that Brahmins from Udupi district and Mangalore city have played a leading role in Karnataka's Hindutva movement. This is unsurprising, as Hindu nationalism is driven primarily by Brahmins desperate to preserve caste privilege. As those at the very top of the Hindu caste system, powerful Brahmins have the most to lose from any spread of Christian egalitarianism. So they are compelled to fight Christianity -- unless of course, the Holy Spirit transforms and humbles their hearts.

CD reports that on 4 February unidentified assailants broke into St Mathias Church in Mandya district and destroyed church property. On 1 February Hindu extremists in Thagacur village, Kodagu district, dragged 11 Christians out of their homes before having them arrested on charges of seeking to procure 'false' and 'fraudulent' conversions. According to the GCIC, these poor tribal Christians, all members of the Beraka Gospel Church in Suntikupa village, were then tortured by police into 'confessing'. CD notes that many Indian police 'erroneously believe that laws against fraudulent conversion apply to any kind of proclamation of faith'.  As such, the police were unashamed to confirm to CD that the Christians had been arrested for 'inviting local Hindus for prayer meetings to convert them', as if such activity were illegal in India.

On 28 January arsonists torched the Jesus Loves Holy Temple Church in Molakalmuru town, Chitradurga district. On 25 January Hindu extremists attacked two Catholic churches in Mysore and Uttara Kannada districts. On 24 January Hindu militants belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsavak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist paramilitary connected with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), invaded the worship service at Indian Evangelical Mission. Shouting 'Jai Shri Ram!' (Praise Lord Ram!), they snatched and burned Bibles, prayer books and song books. They assaulted the service leader, an evangelist named H Raju, accusing him of forcefully converting Hindus. Raju was dragged from the church and forced to kneel and pray in the street while the militants took photographs. According to International Christian Concern (ICC) the extremists also threatened other local Christians. Christian leaders lodged a complaint with the police who subsequently arrested three suspects. On 17 January Hindu militants in Ullal, Mangalore Taluka, bashed Baswamma Sangappa (44) after it was reported to them that she was a convert to Christianity. Attending police also beat Sangappa before arresting her. She was released after a local MP intervened on her behalf. No-one has been charged with her assault.

On 1 February the Justice BK Somashekar Commission of Inquiry released a 500-page interim report on its investigations into Karnataka's church attacks of August-September 2008. The report implicates Hindu nationalist organisations, so Karnataka's ruling Hindu nationalist BJP State Government is crying foul. They are accusing the Justice Somashekar Commission of waging a political 'conspiracy' to discredit and destabilise the government. BJP head, Mr KS Eshwharappa, accused Somashekar of pushing the Federal Congress agenda: ignoring conversions, suppressing Hindus and appeasing minorities, thereby sidelining majority rule. In other words in Eshwharappa's 'democracy', fundamental human rights are only what the majority determine them to be. The Justice Somashekar Commission's possibly explosive final report is due to be released on 31 March.