KARNATAKA

Statue of Mary defiled at church

Vandalism: The statue of Mary that was damaged at the Holy Family Church at Hinkal near Mysore on Monday; (right) the glass case of a grotto of Mary that was damaged at Teranmakki near Bhatkal.

Vandalism: The statue of Mary that was damaged at the Holy Family Church at Hinkal near Mysore on Monday; (right) the glass case of a grotto of Mary that was damaged at Teranmakki near Bhatkal.   | Photo Credit: — PHOTOS: M.A. SRIRAM and by Special Arrange

Special Correspondent

Incident occurred at Hinkal near Mysore; church targeted near Bhatkal also

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

Though the police tried to link it with an attempt to loot the money in the donation box, members of the community said it was an organised attack to humiliate Christians and create fear among them. The statue, measuring about 3-ft high, was placed above the donation box and it was found lying broken on the ground.

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

The police, who received the information around 9 a.m., sent a dog squad and fingerprint experts to the scene. Senior police officers, including Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Ravikanthe Gowda, visited the spot.

The Bishop said the statue of Mary had been destroyed to incite communal hatred and humiliate Christians, who are deeply hurt by the vandalism and destruction of the statue.

He disputed the police version linking the desecration to a burglary attempt and said there was no connection between the two. The police claimed that 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 of the RSS, the Bajrang Dal and other groups stoned and vandalised the prayer hall. He suspected the hand of people outside Hinkal, and said the local community and the Christians shared an excellent rapport; and even Hindus 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 an 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 had 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 sought a list of churches in order to extend security to them.

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.

Grotto desecrated

Mangalore Staff Correspondent reports:

Less than 48 hours after a cross at St. Lourdes Church near Bhatkal was desecrated, the glass casing of a grotto of St. Mary was found damaged at St. Antony’s Church in Teranmakki village, 10 km from Bhatkal city, late on Sunday.

The police believe that the attackers came in a vehicle and escaped after attacking the church, which is situated on National Highway 17.

‘Retaliation’

Inspector-General of Police (Western Range) Gopal B. Hosur told The Hindu that the attack might be in retaliation to the arrest of eight Sri Rama Sene activists in connection with the January 22 attack.

The sene had carried out the attack to avenge the attacks on “Indian Hindus” in Australia by issuing a warning two days in advance.

The priest of the church Marcus Tauro said: “Many Hindu fishermen stop by to light a candle at the Grotto before venturing into the sea. Travellers on the highway also stop by to pray, irrespective of their religion. I do not understand why we should be targeted.”

Acharya’s reaction

Udupi Staff Correspondent writes:

Home Minister V.S. Acharya said on Monday that all efforts would be made to trace the miscreants behind the desecration of Mary’s statue at a church near Mysore.

He told presspersons that it would also be ascertained if there was an attempt to steal money there.

President of the State unit of the BJP D.V. Sadananda Gowda said that stern action would be taken against those responsible for desecration of the statue.

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