5th October 2008
Orissa-like terror stalks Christians in Karnataka interiors; Hindutva vigilante groups stalk Pastors, visitors
State home minister VS Acharya, senior Police officers must be sacked
Police ordering village churches not to hold Sunday worship, submit `Licences’ to hold prayers;
[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 in most places, people fear they may be attacked again anytime in the future.
The devastation of major Catholic and Protestant places of worship 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 media. The VHP and the police are making full use of the interlude to ensure that the law cannot take it due course and the culprits who came in well orchestrated attacks will never be caught.
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, and his encouragement to religious groups to demand bans and moratoriums on `conversions’, clearly show his commitment to the fascist cause.
The formal Constitutional position of Home Minister Acharya is untenable 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 the States of 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 in New Delhi, 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 attacks 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 IPCI church, and has been told not to hold worship 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. These officers 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 organisations 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 the anti Christian violence and the injured.
24 August – 4 October 2008
14 Districts hit
300 Villages destroyed
4,400 Houses burnt
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
4 Districts affected
22 Churches attacked
20 Nuns, women injured
3 Churches damaged
4. MADHYA PRADESH
4 Churches damaged
1 Church destroyed
4 Attempts made
6. TAMAIL NADU 1 Church attacked
7. UTTARAKHAND 2 murdered – aged priest and employee
[Released to the media by Dr John Dayal]