The series of attacks on Christians in Karnataka is partly their fault, the state’s home minister Araga Jnanendra appeared to indicate today, telling NDTV that there is “mistake on both sides”. Two days before Christmas, as the state passed the controversial religious conversion bill amid widespread protests, Mr Jnanendra was asked about the attacks, which Chief Minister Basavraj Bommai has said was meant to avoid the rampant forced conversions in the state.
Asked about the attacks by right-wing groups on Christian prayer meetings, Mr Jnanendra said, “There is mistake on both sides. If they were not doing forceful conversion, then they wouldn’t be stopping them and creating ruckus”.
He, however, admitted that there is “no way anyone can take law into their own hands… if a complaint is given, action will be initiated.
Asked if the law and order situation is being disturbed is because of “fringe elements”, the minister responded in the negative. “On one hand, yes, fringe elements and on the other hand there are illegal conversions,” he said.
Asked whether the state government has data to prove illegal conversions, Mr Jnanendra answered in the affirmative.
Asked if the data was based on registered cases or allegations, he said it is allegations.
“There are no registered cases. In Udupi one suicide took place, four people in Mangaluru committed suicide because of conversions and our MLA’s mother,” he said, refering to the BJP MLA from Hosadurga Taluk Gulihatti Chandrashekar.
“Before giving a complaint (to the police), he had requested his mother not to convert. And he started creating awareness about not to convert. But when he tried to file a complaint, the police did not receive it because there are no sections under which this case can be filed. This is not the fault of the police. Siddaramaiah said you can file a complaint under Section IPC 295. But that section is about defiling place of worship. There is no section for conversion,” he said.
Earlier today, the “Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021”, popularly known as “Anti-conversion Bill”, was passed assembly today amid vociferous protests by he Congress, who called it “anti-people”, “inhuman”, “anti-constitutional”, “anti-poor” and “draconian”.
Last week, Dr Ashwathnarayan CN — a minister in Basavaraj Bommai’s cabinet — had told NDTV that no attack on Christian community has taken place because of their religion. The attacks, he contended, were on personal level and a campaign is created around them to meet political ends.
Since September, as the state cabinet started discussions on an anti-conversion bill, at least 7 attacks by right-wing vigilantes on churches and the Christian community have been reported in Karnataka.
Religious books have been burnt and mobs have barged into churches and attacked its members.
On the day when the bill was tabled for discussion, a statue of St Anthony was vandalised by unknown people. The priest of the church, Father Jospeh Anthony Daniel, told NDTV that the church in Susaipalya is believed to have been damaged around 5.30 this morning. He said this kind of vandalism had never happened before.
In most cases, these have been preceded by unproven allegations of forcible conversion. Church leaders have expressed concern that a bill may lead to an escalation in violence.