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State Refusal To Probe Violence Dismays Christians In Karnataka

9/17/08 MANGALORE, India (UCAN) — Christians have expressed dismay after Karnataka’s chief minister refused to probe violence against them in the state but insisted on investigating “foreign funding” for conversions.

The southern state’s chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa, refused the demands of opposition parties and Christian groups to institute a judicial probe into Hindu violence against Christian churches on Sept. 14 and 15.

Yeddyurappa, who heads the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people’s party) government in the state, said he plans to initiate a probe into foreign funding that Christian organizations allegedly get for their conversion activities.

As media published his statements late on Sept. 16, a day after local Catholics demonstrated against the attacks on Christians in their state, Orissa and other places, violence continued in several parts of Karnataka.

On the morning of Sept. 17 fanatics vandalized St. Mary’s Church in Kolar, 60 kilometers northeast of the state capital, Bangalore, which lies 2,060 kilometers south of New Delhi.

In another attack early that morning, desecrated the Blessed Sacrament and burned Bibles and prayer books at St. George Church in Ujire, a town in Mangalore district. The church belongs to Belthangady Catholic diocese of the Syro-Malabar rite.

Father Jose Valiaparambil, vicar general of the diocese, told UCA News the church’s tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament was thrown on the main road.

They burned “bibles and other holy books, smashed its crucifix and broke the windows and furniture,” he told UCA News. He added that parishioners elsewhere are guarding some churches after the churches received threatening letters.

Domy Nediyapala, from one such threatened parish, said he spent the entire night along with others guarding their church and its roadside grotto.

Four persons were stabbed and several churches were vandalized on Sept. 16, the day the chief minister visited Mangalore, a coastal Christian stronghold, and offered compensation for churches damaged by arson.

Armed Hindu fanatics had vandalized more than 25 Christian places of worship Sept. 14 and 15, and also attacked Sunday worshippers. About 100 people were injured amid stone-throwing and police caning during the aggression, with most of the violence in Mangalore, 2,290 kilometers south of New Delhi.

Adoration Sister Pramila lost an eye when Hindu fanatics threw stones into her convent in Mangalore. The nun was leading a prayer service with nearly 50 people.

Father Faustin Lobo, official spokesperson of the Catholic Church in Karnataka, told UCA News on Sept. 17 that Christians are dismayed the state “is not doing anything to curtail violence and provide security to the churches.” Rather, it is “wasting time on irrelevant matters,” he said.

“Instead of probing the organized attacks on Christians, the chief minister is busy probing into the flow of foreign funds for conversion,” he said. “Conversion is a myth, while attacks on Christians are a reality.”

He asserted the state government’s refusal to investigate the violence shows it “masterminded the attack.” Last week the government completed 100 days in power.

Cyril Vaz, a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, expressed similar sentiments to UCA News. Christians, he said, are not “for hitting back or punishing Hindus ourselves,” and want the state to probe the violence and punish the guilty.

Carmine D’Souza, a housewife in Mangalore, said that following the violence police arrested several young people from homes, accusing them of creating aggression. The police claimed the young men were picked up from churches. Several youths went missing, she said.

A volunteer fact-finding forum led by film director Mahesh Bhatt visited the affected areas and blamed the government for the violence.

“The state home minister is responsible for the total collapse of law and order in coastal Karnataka,” Bhatt said, addressing media on Sept. 16. He also said the state intelligence also failed “to warn of such a tragedy.”

Despite the government’s claims of normalcy, he added, the situation “was far from normal” and fresh incidents of violence continued to occur.