Attacks on Christians have escalated in Karnataka in the past two months, especially after the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced that it will shortly implement an anti-conversion law in the state.
This was the key finding of a fact-finding report by several civil society organisations such as the United Christian Forum (UCF), Association for Protection of Civil Rights, and United Against Hate. The report also claimed that Karnataka ranks third among states with the most number of attacks on the Christian community and their places of worship in India, said media reports.
According to an Indian Express report, the UCF based their findings on the calls made to their helpline. In September 2021 alone, the helpline had recorded 305 cases across the country. Most of them were complaints of mob attacks (288 cases), and damage to places of worship (28 cases). As many as 1,331 women, 588 tribals, and 513 Dalits were injured in these attacks, acording to the report.
Moreover, the report pointed out that the police barred people from holding congregations in at least 85 instances this year (2021). Among the states, Uttar Pradesh reported the most such cases (66), followed by Chhattisgarh (47), and Karnataka (32).
After releasing the report, the President of the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops’ Council, Reverend Peter Machado told the media that Karnataka seems to have “lost its humanity despite being known for progressive politics and (Bengaluru) being the IT hub of the country”.
Machado, who is also the Archbishop of Bangalore, pointed out that many such attacks may have been missed by the report since it was based on the calls made to the UCF helpline. The report however does not state that most of these attacks were led by “right-wing groups and the police have failed to act on them.”
On the other hand, Christians have been slapped with cases, while the Belagavi police too prohibited the community members from conducting prayer meetings at the upcoming legislature session. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had recently announced that a Bill to prohibit “forced conversions” in the state would be passed by the government during the assembly’s Winter Session, scheduled to start on December 13. Also, the Karnataka government has issued an order to conduct a survey of churches in the state.
Peter Machado had written to the CM urging the Cabinet not to promote the “undesirable and discriminatory” bill.
The issue became political after JP MLA from Hosadurga (in Chitradurga district) Goolihatti Shekhar, claimed religious conversions “by force or through inducement” were rampant across the state, in the monsoon session of the Karnataka state assembly. The MLA had also said that 15,000 to 20,000 people, including his own mother, were converted to Christianity in his constituency.
He had cited statistics from the Home Department and claimed that 36 cases of forced conversion were registered from across the state. According to Shekhar, the menace of forced conversion is so rampant that some are even converting residences to churches and Bible societies.
This led Home Minister Araga Jnanendra to state that the government would keep a “strict vigil” on such alleged activities. He also declared that the issue of religious conversions had hcome to the government’s notice and that converting people from one religion to another by inducing them is a punishable offence. Alleging that a wide network was working on religious conversions across the country, Jnanendra had reiterated that they would keep a strict vigil on this activity.
A week later, Karnataka CM Bommai declared that the state government plannted to introduce a law to ban forcible religious conversions in the state.