EFI News: Deadliest Spate of Christian Persecution Hits South Indian State

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March 20, 2010

EFI solicits your action to help save Christians in Karnataka through its email campaign

EFI has learnt that Southern Karnataka state has recorded over 1,000 anti-Christian attacks in 500 days, and the number is growing by the day.

It is regrettable that for the alternative media, including our own EFI News, as well as civil society groups, it has become commonplace to report on physical attacks on Christian workers and believers, vandalism of church property, desecration of statues of Jesus, and arrests of priests on frivolous complains of conversions in Karnataka.

Most recently, on March 17, around 150 people allegedly led by Right-wing Hindu extremist groups stormed the funeral of a 50-year-old Christian man at St. Thomas Church near Arsikere town in Hassan district. The mob pulled the coffin apart and desecrated the cross the relatives of the deceased were carrying. They threw the body in a tractor and dumped it outside, saying his burial would have contaminated the Indian soil and his body should be buried in Rome or America.

According to the report of an independent enquiry conducted by a former judge of the Karnataka High Court, Justice Michael F. Saldanha, the 1,000th attack in the state took place in Mysore city on January 26, the day India celebrated the coming in force of the great Constitution, which gives religious freedom to all communities. The incidence of attacks suddenly rose in September 2008, even as Christians were being hacked to death and their houses burnt in the anti-Christian bloodbath in eastern Orissa state following the death of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati by Maoists.

While the mainstream national media is shockingly silent about the unprecedented persecution of minority Christians in Karnataka, the state government has allegedly bought over sections of the local media so that they underplay the incidence of attacks, suggests Justice Saldanha’s report.

The report we are referring to carries the findings of the People’s Tribunal Enquiry by Justice Michael F. Saldanha on behalf of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ Dakshina Kannada district chapter, the Catholic Association of South Kanara and the Karnataka Chapter of Transparency International.

It is not coincidence that Christian persecution rose to new heights soon after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) became a ruling party in the state. While the BJP had a 20-month rule in alliance with the regional Janata Dal – Secular (JD-S) party since February 2006, it came to power on its own in May 2008 – the party’s first standalone government in a south Indian state.

That Karnataka – once a symbol of India’s economic progress – has now become a hub of Right-wing Hindu extremism, is not worrisome only for Christians. It is a cause for concern for all Indians, as communal disturbance is harmful for all communities; it benefits only politicians seeking narrow gains.

Not long ago, on January 24 last year, the whole nation was taken aback as television news channels showed extremists of Rightwing outfit Sri Ram Sene storming a pub and brutally ejecting the women (all Hindu) inside, accusing them of behaving outside the permit of Hindu tradition. Two of the women were hospitalized.

Religious intolerance also risks India’s international reputation at a time when the country is engaging with the West for its further progress. It is also betrayal of people’s mandate on the part of the state government, as the Indian voter has clearly shown door to the divisive politics of the BJP in both 2004 and 2009 general elections. But the shortsighted BJP does not see an immediate threat to its government in Karnataka, thanks to the weakness of the two main opposition parties, the Congress and the JD-S. However, the people of the state are unhappy with the growing lawlessness, we are told.

On behalf of the Christians under attack in Karnataka and its civil society, we urge you to speak out against the unbridled persecution and emerging anarchy in the state. Kindly express your concern by writing to the state’s chief minister, the governor, and the home minister, whose postal addresses, phone and fax numbers, and email are given below. You can also flood the “Share Your Opinion” column on the chief minister’s personal blog, http://yeddyurappa.in/share-your-opinion/ with letters of concern.

Also given below is a sample letter that can be sent to the officials.

Sample Letter:

Dear Sir,

We have learnt that Karnataka has recorded over 1,000 attacks on Christians in 500 days, and the number is growing by the day. We are deeply concerned about the safety of the minority community as we are regularly hearing about physical attacks on Christians, vandalism of church property, and arrests of priests on frivolous complains of conversions in Karnataka, as reported by the alternative media.

Karnataka was once a symbol of India’s economic progress thanks to the IT industry in the state, but now that reputation is under threat. It seems the state is now a hub of Right-wing Hindu extremism and can soon fend off foreign investment.

Before the shockingly high incidence of communal violence in Karnataka spoils India’s reputation in the international community and the situation goes out of control, we request you to take action against the rioters and ensure the protection of the minorities.

Yours truly,

Contact Details:

Chief Minister of Karnataka
Shri B. S. Yediyurappa

(O) Tel: +91 080 22253414 ; 22253424
(O) Fax: +91 080 22281021 ; 22253660
[email protected]

Governor of Karnataka
Shri Hans Raj Bhardwaj   
Raj Bhavan Road,
Bangalore - 560 001

Tel: + 91 80 22254102 ; 22253555
Fax: +91 80 22258150

Email: [email protected]

Karnataka State Home Minister
Shri Dr. V.S. Acharya
Room No.155,
Legislators Home,
Bangalore - 560 001

Tel / Fax: +91 80 22252536
Cell: +91 9448120639
[email protected]

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell

General Secretary
Evangelical Fellowship of India
New Delhi, India

Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations