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Karnataka: authorities back anti-Christian violence

ICC Note: Christians hold street rally to protest attack on Christian college by Hindu fundamentalists – 5,000 people take part.

by Nirmala Carvalho

8/9/07 India (AsiaNews) – The frequent acts of violence against Christians in Karnataka are carried out with “the tacit support of the administration,” this according to Fr Doming Dias, principal of the Sacred Heart Junior College in Shimoga, a Catholic school that has been threatened and attacked in the recent past.

The All Christians Shimoga District Association and the Federation of Karnataka Christians Association held a rally to protest the attacks against the college by Hindu fundamentalists.

Nearly 5,000 Christians, including people from the neighbouring dioceses of Mangalore and Chikmangalur, took part in the street action.

At the end the leaders handed a memorandum to the Shimoga District Commissioner Anil Kumar

Fr Doming Dias explained that the college he runs “provides basic education to about 700 pupils of every caste or creed.”

“There are about 80 Catholics and 20 [other] Christians; about a 100 Muslims and 500 Hindus,” he said.

“This academic year began in June and the school textbook sports the image of the Sacred Heart to protect and guide the school. [But] on July 23, Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal stormed my office and ordered me to remove the image from the books within three days. They shouted false accusations that I had converted people to Christianity. I told them that it was only the image of our patron and that we had the right to put it on the cover. But they just repeated their ultimatum.”

On July 27 “a large mob of extremists carrying saffron flags came into the Cathedral compound where the school is located shouting anti-Christian slogans. They accused management of blaspheming against their religion. They showed the school book and shouted that the image of the Sacred Heart should be replaced by that of Hindu divinities like Saraswati or Ganpati. Afterwards we went to see the superintendent of police and the district collector to tell them about the seriousness of the acts.”

Sadly for Father Doming “such incidents are commonplace. Many Protestant clergymen have been beaten up and their prayer meeting disrupted with the tacit support of the administration.”

Mgr Gerald Lobo, bishop of Shimoga, said he was worried about “the recent spate of anti-Christian violence in Shimoga.

“Textbooks in local Hindu schools always have images of Hindu gods,” he said. “What’s wrong if the Christian minority putting the image of its own patron on its books. The Church for decades has provided basic educational and health services to the whole population without discrimination due to religion or caste.”

“All three local MLAs belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is so tragic that they will not do anything to protect Christian citizens. The Sangh Parivar [an umbrella organisation of Hindu nationalist groups] is always falsely accusing us of converting uneducated people. In some rural villages they have gone door to door warning people that what missionaries say is only meant to trick them into conversion. In fact, the last census in 2001 showed that the number of Christians actually dropped.”

“The Church is concerned that things might get worse in October when the BJP will take over the state government in Karnataka. The secular Janata Dal has been governing in coalition with the BJP for the past year and a half. But the current Chief Minister Kumaraswamy will step down on October 2 to be replaced by the Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa from the BJP,” the prelate said.

“Still I urge all those who are persecuted for their faith not to fear; and not let evil overwhelm and discourage them.”