In two seemingly disconnected incidents, prayer meetings conducted by Christian groups were disrupted on Sunday in different parts of Karnataka.
At Bhovi Colony in Sira taluk of Tumkur district, the police entered a prayer meeting of a Pentecostal mission and detained the priest, besides confiscating musical instruments, around 1 p.m. While the police maintained that the prayer was causing nuisance, the priest and his followers claim that the police were acting at the behest of local Hindutva outfits.
Earlier, in Belgaum, activists of Sri Rama Sene, led by Ramakantha Konduskar and City Corporation councillor Deepak Jamkhandi, stormed into a prayer service being conducted by the New Life Fellowship at Kala Mandir in the Corporation building at 11.30 a.m. They roughed up the believers and intimidated them. Timely intervention by the local police saved the day.
“This is part of a larger pan-Karnataka phenomenon in which the Sangh Parivar is trying to polarise votes by stoking communal passions. In a majority of anti-Christian attacks since 2008, we have seen that the police and the bureaucracy have acted as extended arms of Hindutva organisations,” said Anand Kumar, State coordinator of the All India Christian Council. K.L. Ashok, general secretary of the Karnataka Communal Harmony Forum, said, “The attacks against minorities have not stopped even after the Congress came to power. This shows that irrespective of the political dispensation, the bureaucracy remains deeply communal.”
Speaking from Sira, pastor T.K. Naik of the Pentecostal Indian Gypsy Works Fellowship, said: “The police suddenly barged into my house at 1 p.m. where we were having a prayer meeting and hauled me to the police station.” The police charged him with creating public nuisance by playing loud music.
Inspector Ramakrishnaiah, who detained the pastor, however, said, “There are little children and sick people in the neighbourhood. How can they conduct such loud prayers?”
In response, the pastor said, “The Narasimha Swamy and Magodu Rangappa temples are a stone’s throw from my house. They play music on loudspeakers. The recent Dasara and Ganesha festivals also saw huge celebrations on the streets. Why pick only on us?”
The pastor said certain Hindutva leaders had been harassing him and his followers for the last eight years. “They even prevented us from constructing a proper church despite a court order protecting our right to do so. The police are acting on behalf of these anti-social elements.”
Speaking to The Hindu from Belgaum, pastor K.J. Cherian of the New Life Foundation said, “We were conducting a peaceful prayer in a rented hall. Suddenly, Mr. Konduskar and Mr. Jamkhandi stormed in with a handful of their supporters and started abusing us. Soon, more than 200 of their supporters gathered there. Thankfully, the local inspector saved us.”