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Activists, victims blame ‘police inaction’ for ‘rising attacks’ on Karnataka’s Christian community

Former Public Prosecutor at Karnataka High Court, B T Venkatesh, told The Indian Express that the alleged inaction could be due to the societal and systematic pressure the police are exposed to.

A video shows Bajrang Dal members forcing people out of the prayer hall in Belur. (Screengrab)

With a recent report claiming an increase in attacks on Christians in Karnataka ever since the BJP-led state government proposed an anti-conversion law, activists and victims have cited “police inaction” as a major reason behind the rise.

In one of the incidents that took place in Belur town of Hassan district on November 28, around 25 members of Bajrang Dal barged into a church when the prayer service was on, over allegations of forceful conversions.

A member of the church, who was present at the spot during the incident, later said, “The police arrived after we complained and tried to douse the tension created by the Right-wing activists. The police also informed us that an FIR had been filed at Belur police station against five persons based on our complaint.”

However, she added, “We later found out that no action will be taken even against the five named in the FIR as someone from our side had reportedly agreed to a consensual settlement.”

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A video that had gone viral showed the activists forcing people out of the prayer hall and a few women from the Christian community engaging in a verbal spat with the members of Bajrang Dal.

However, a senior police officer from Hassan said the issue “was sorted amicably.” On being asked about the next course of action, he said, “During the peace meeting, both the parties promised such issues will not happen again, so we decided not to take any action.”

In another issue reported to the United Christian Forum’s (UCF) national helpline, around 40 activists allegedly assaulted a priest and other people who were attending a Sunday prayer meeting in Rajanukunte on the outskirts of Bengaluru. The Kannada version of a report released last week mentions that the group interrupted the services by pelting stones at the church building and destroyed the altar and vehicles of devotees parked in the premises.

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“When the police arrived, the activists, who outnumbered the members of the Christian community at the spot, pressured the police to file an FIR against the priest. Three days later, the priest was summoned by the police and suggested he cancel the prayer services, citing sensitivity,” said a UCF volunteer on condition of anonymity.

The report also noted incidents of vandalism, false accusations and forced arrests in Udupi, Belagavi, Uttara Kannada, Chitradurga and Bengaluru districts.

The joint report by UCF, Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), and United Against Hate claimed that a total of 32 such incidents were reported in the state since the beginning of 2021. It further claimed that at least five of them took place between October and mid-November and stated that Karnataka ranks third among the states in India where attacks on the Christian community and their places of worship were recorded.

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Former Public Prosecutor at Karnataka High Court, B T Venkatesh, told The Indian Express that police inaction could be attributed to the societal and systematic pressure the police are exposed to. “While the police are bound to receive a complaint, negotiations begin to include and exclude certain names in FIRs based on coercions by those in power. In a bid to avoid facing ire from those in need and other adverse consequences, the police officials are forced to compromise on proper investigations and thereby prosecutions of the accused in such cases,” he said.

Venkatesh further pointed at the feudal structure of society that leads to the idea “that might is right” apart from the caste structure which lies in the “existence and subjugation of Dalits” as factors that fuel issues related to conversion.

Earlier, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had announced that a Bill to prohibit “forced conversions” in the state would be passed by the state government during the Winter Session of the Assembly scheduled to begin on December 13.

First published on: 09-12-2021 at 19:37 IST
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