A cross at St. Lourdes Catholic Church at Mundalli village in Bhatkal taluk of Uttara Kannada was desecrated on Friday, allegedly by activists of the local unit of Sri Rama Sene.
The church is 5 km from Bhatkal.
The accused were purportedly trying to pull down the cross, which is a few metres from the church.
But some custodians of the church saw them and raised an alarm, forcing the culprits to flee.
Needle of suspicion
The needle of suspicion turned towards the Sri Rama Sene activists as only a few days ago the local unit had threatened such an action in a memorandum addressed to the President and submitted to the Assistant Commissioner, after a protest.
The memorandum submitted on January 19 stated that “Christians in India are part of a conspiracy to target Indian Hindus in Australia.”
The memorandum, signed by convener of the Bhatkal unit of Sri Rama Sene Shankar Naik, said that if the President did not initiate action to prevent the attacks on “Indian Hindus” in Australia in two days (January 20 and 21), the sene would “ensure that there is not a single church in Bhatkal”.
Additional Superintendent of Police V.B. Gaonkar told The Hindu that Shankar Naik, his brother Keshav Naik and Shankar Moger of the sene were among those arrested in connection with the attack.
All the three were “habitual offenders” and had several cases pending against them, he said.
Sources from Bhatkal said that the situation in the areas around the church was tense, but peaceful. Mr. Gaonkar said that additional forces had been deployed in the area to prevent any untoward incident.
Produced in court
Karwar Correspondent reports:
The police said that eight sene activists had been arrested in connection with the incident and they had been produced in court.
The five others arrested have been identified as Nitesh Mahale, Eshwar Naik, Mahadev Naik, Shekhar Kharvi and Devendra Naik
Shivaraj Ambari, president of the Uttara Kannada unit of the sene, denied that his organisation had any role in the incident and blamed some Christian organisations for it.
He said the sene was blamed for a similar incident at Humnabad in Bidar district a few months ago.
After investigation, a former pastor of the church was arrested in connection with the case, he said.