The Holy Family Church at Hinkal, about 10 km from here, was desecrated in the early hours of Monday, and the statue of Mary was found broken in pieces.

Though the police tried to link it with an attempt to burgle the donation box, members of the community disputed the police version. The statue, measuring about 3 ft in height, was placed above the donation box and was found lying broken on the ground.

The incident came to light around 6.30 a.m. when Robinson, a driver and cook, noticed the broken statue and immediately informed parish priest N.S. Marie Joseph. The matter was brought to the notice of the Bishop of Mysore Thomas Vazhapilly, who rushed to Hinkal to take stock of the situation.

The police, on receiving the information around 9 a.m., sent a sniffer dog and fingerprint experts to the scene. Senior police officers including Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Ravikanthe Gowda rushed to the spot. He suspected the incident to have taken place after 11.30 p.m. The Bishop said the Christians are deeply hurt by the vandalism and the destruction of Mary’s statue.

He disputed the police version linking the desecration to a burglary attempt and said there was no link between the two. The police claimed there were two attempts earlier to steal the donation box but it was not brought to their notice.

Fr. Joseph said the church was attacked in 2002 when suspected activists had stoned and vandalised the prayer hall. He suspected the hands of people outside Hinkal and said the local community and the Christians shared an excellent rapport, and even Hindus frequently visited the church and made offerings.

Expressing regret and shock over the vandalism, Fr. Joseph said it was not a case of theft accidentally resulting in the breaking of the statue but done with the intention to target Christians. He appealed to the government to extend security to churches and prevent the recurrence of such incidents. Such vandalism had happened in Mangalore and Bangalore, and now it has spread to Mysore, he said.

In his complaint to the police, Fr. Joseph sought police protection for all churches in Mysore and said “what has happened here is not simply an attempted theft but a deliberate action to desecrate the church and hurt the feelings of the Christian community”.

Mr. Ravikanthe Gowda said the police would investigate the case impartially based on the complaint filed by the parish priest and sought a list of churches in order to extend security to them.

The incident has shocked the community members who gathered in large numbers to apprise themselves of the development. Incidentally, the same Church was vandalised in 2002 and the next hearing of the case pertaining to that incident has been posted for February February 17, 2010.

The Vijayanagar police have registered a case. Security has been strengthened at the church and senior officials and elected representatives including the local MLA, Sathyanarayana, visited the spot and spoke to the Bishop and other community leaders.