Karnataka is ranked third among States with highest number of attacks on members of the Christian community and their places of worship, according to a fact-finding report that was released on Sunday. The report, which is a joint initiative of the United Christian Forum, Association for Protection of Civil Rights, and United Against Hate, also revealed that Karnataka recorded the highest incidents among States in south India.
The report documented calls received on the United Christian Forum’s helpline. Till September this year, the helpline recorded 305 cases across India. Of these, 288 were mob attacks, and in 28 cases, places of worship had been damaged. In 85 cases, police authorities did not allow congregations. A total of 1,331 women, 588 tribals, and 513 Dalits were injured in these attacks, the report said.
Of the 305 incidents, 66 were from Uttar Pradesh, 47 from Chhattisgarh, and 32 from Karnataka. The report noted a rise in attacks in Karnataka in October and November in the backdrop of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) mulling over an anti-conversion law. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has announced that his Government would pass the Bill in the Belagavi legislature session starting December 13.
Rev. Peter Machado, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Bangalore, who released the report, said he felt sad that Karnataka, known for its progressive politics and for being the IT hub of the country, had earned such a “dubious distinction”. “We seem to have lost our humanity,” he said.
The report may have recorded only a fraction of the attacks as it only documented those that the UCF helpline received. “There have been several attacks, disruption of prayers in remote areas of north Karnataka and we are really worried about the safety of the priests there. Many have also gone unreported,” he added. What the report also does not document is that most of these attacks have been led by right-wing groups and the police have failed to act on them. Instead, community members have had several cases piled up on them — they are both attacked and booked, said the Archbishop. “In Belagavi, the police have told community members not to hold prayer meetings during the legislature session,” he said.
‘Will write to parents of our students’
Rev. Machado announced that the church would seek the opinion of parents of students enrolled in the educational institutions its runs. “We will write to parents of all students in our educational institutions asking whether they have been discriminated against or whether there have been any effort to convert their wards. With this, we want to mobilise larger public opinion against the anti-conversion law that the Government wants to bring,” he said.
He added: “What began as a similar campaign against the community in Odisha grew to become genocidal in a decade’s time. An anti-conversion law will only empower goons to take the law into their own hands. People of the State need to think whether Odisha is a model we need to emulate.”