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5 October 2008

Orissa-like terror stalks Christians in Karnataka interiors

From John Dayal, All India Christian Council

Police ordering village churches not to hold Sunday worship, submit `Licences' to hold prayers; State home minister VS Acharya, senior Police officers must be sacked

Brinda Karat, Shabana Azmi, Girish Karnad, Medha Patkar to address massive civil society rally in Bangalore on 6th October 2008

[The following is the text of the Press statement issued to the media in Mangalore, Karnataka, by Dr John Dayal, Secretary General, All India Christian Council, and Member, National Integration Council of the Government of India, after a tour of the rural churches in Dakshina Kannada District of Karnataka on 4th and 5th October 2008]

A two day tour of rural Christian churches in the forested hill villages and plantations of Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka makes it clear that Christians in areas outside the metropolitan areas of Bangalore and Mangalore have lived a life of fear since 14 September not much different from the terror that stalks the Dalits and tribals of Kandhamal in distant Orissa. Although the violence was only on one day, people fear they may be attacked again anytime in the future.

The devastation of major catholic and protestant in Mangalore city, the attack on women and specially the beating up of Nuns, has correctly shocked the conscience of the majority community in Karnataka and the rest of India as much as has the rape of the Nun in Orissa. But this other side remains dark, beyond the glare of television. The VHP and the police are making full use of the interlude to ensure that the law cannot take it dues course and the culprits who came in well orchestra attack will never are aught.

The mocking tone of the State home Minister, V S Acharya, his pugnacious and continuing oral attacks on the Church and on the Catholic Archbishop and Bishops, his threats to the New Life Church and its pastors, his defence of the Hindutva Parivar assailants, and his encouragement to religious groups to demand bans and meritorious on conversions clearly show his commitment to the fascist cause and conspiracy.

The formal position of Home Minister Acharya is untabelable and the Governor and Chief Minister must sack him. Chief Minister, Mr. Yeddiurappa, no less pugnacious in defence of the Hindutva Parivar and in his critique of the Church, would otherwise have shown himself to be condoning a well thought out and planned conspiracy against Christianity in Karnataka, which is one of the ancient homelands of our faith together with Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

I am also surprised that former Deputy prime minister and BJP supremo Mr. Lal Krishna Advani in his meeting with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has chosen the occasion to plead that the US reconsider its ban on a visa to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The US has refused him a visa twice after human rights groups across the globe exposed his complicity in the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. In fact human rights groups have demanded that the US visa of Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik also be similarly revoked for his complicity in the ethnic cleansing of Christians in Kandhamal in violence that has continued now for forty days after it began its second phase on 24th August 2008.

In Karnataka, the simultaneous attack between 10.30 and 11.30 has left at least one pastor grievously hurt and scores injured. Pastor Christu Das of Kayarthada in Belthangandy D-K, escaped being decapitated as he warded off a sword attack with his arm, which now is in thick plaster. His wife, who ran to save him, was also attacked. All that the State did was to give him Rupees One thousand five hundred from the taluk office. He lives a life of terror in his incomplete Believer’s Church, and has been told not to hold church services. Visitors going anywhere near him are stopped by goons, some on motorcycles, at the heeds of the road and questioned. The police are nowhere to seen. At other churches, belonging to Believers Church India, Indian Pentecostal and other Evangelical groups, lone unarmed police or home guards sit, after having told the pastor not to carry on any religious work.

These rural areas are not visited by national teams and political leaders on disaster tourism of the region. Even the senior police and administrative officers have met the wounded only in hospitals and have not visited the devastated churches.

A most peculiar aspect of the entire episode from the time of the violence has been the role of the police. They had come to the churches before violence to warn the pastors to be cautious. They were missing from the spot then the actual violence took place. They appeared at the spot often within minutes of the violence as if they were waiting somewhere close by. At each church, they forced the pastor and his associates to clean up the damage remove broken glass and furniture before the press, sometimes accompanying them, was allowed to take pictures. In one case, attempts were made to wipe out all evidence of attempted arson. What were the police attempting to hide, and who where they attempting to protect. At each place, the assailants came with their faces masked with deadly weapons, and with fuel. When they did not find fuel, they emptied vehicles of pastors of fuel and set them afire.

Taking into consideration that the Rule of Law is inoperative on a widespread level and ANARCHY is prevalent in the affected Districts of Orissa, and Karnataka, our demands are:

1. To send in, para-drop if necessary, contingents of the Indian army into the Kandhamal district where the writ of the State no longer runs. This must be followed by a total change in the police and civil administration which has proved to be incompetent, partisan, bigoted and tainted at the highest levels. Many of them must face criminal prosecution for c0mplicity in heinous crimes, and for dereliction of duty.

2. To sack the Home Ministers of Karnataka and Orissa, together with their senior police and civil officers for their complicity and sympathy with the assailant fascist forces.

4. To proscribe immediately all organizations and individuals carrying out or inciting communal violence, namely, the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, that have been identified by no less than the National Commission for Minorities as causing disaffection among the communities.

5. To order investigation by Central Bureau of Investigations, not by State commissions, into the circumstances leading to the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad vice president Lakhmanananda Saraswati and the organised violence which followed in the wake of the Yatra in which his body was taken along hundreds of kilometers in the district of Kandhamal.

6. Order compensation without delay to the families of those killed in communal violence and the injured.

THE TOLL ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE 24 August – 4 October 2008 1. ORISSA 14 Districts hit 300 Villages destroyed 4,400 Houses burnt 50,000 Homeless 59 People murdered 10 Fathers/Pastors/ Nuns injured 2 Women gang-rapes confirmed [One Nun] 18,000 Men, women, children injured 151 Churches destroyed 13 Schools, colleges destroyed 2. KARNATAKA 4 Districts affected 22 Churches attacked 20 Nuns, women injured 3. KERALA 3 Churches damaged 4. MADHYA PRADESH 4 Churches damaged 5. DELHI 1 Church destroyed 4 Attempts made 6. TAMAIL NADU 1 Church attacked 7. UTTARAKHAND 2 murdered – aged priest and employee

Landelijke India Werkgroep / India Committee of The Netherlands - October 6, 2008