Two pastors and six others were injured in simultaneous attacks carried out on 14 churches and prayer halls by suspected Bajrang Dal activists in coastal districts of Mangalore, Udupi and the neighboring district of Chikmagalur, on Sunday.
Eyewitnesses told the police that some motorcycle-borne miscreants barged into prayer halls and ransacked them.
A statue of Jesus Christ was damaged in a prayer hall next to Milagres’ Convent in Mangalore City. While some of these churches belonged to the Pentecostal Mission, the rest were of Roman Catholics. The pastors were injured at Sirur in Udupi and Jayapura in Chikmagalur.
The attackers apparently were protesting against an alleged conversion drive by missionaries in the region.
The attacks triggered protests and sit-in on roads from Christians in Mangalore and Chikmagalur. Later, policemen caned protests to facilitate smooth flow of traffic. Prohibitory orders have been put in place under Section 144 of the CrPC in Mangalore for the next three days. “We are perplexed at such simultaneous attacks. All of them were carried out between 10:15 am and 10:30 am. We don't know the provocation, but it's probably because of the reports of conversion. We are questioning some youth. No one has been taken into custody,” said A M Prasad, the IGP Eastern Range.
The Pradesh Congress chief and the Opposition leader in the assembly, Mallikarjun Kharge, has demanded a judicial probe into the attacks.
“These attacks have taken place in Home Minister Dr V S Acharya’s district. Therefore, he must quit his post on moral grounds,” Kharge told reporters.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has raised the issue with Karnataka Governor Rameshwar Thakur and Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and asked them to ensure communal harmony “at all costs”.
“The law and order situation in Karnataka has reached its nadir and minorities are particularly being targeted to intimidate and silence them from performing their legitimate religious rites. The Sangh parivar is being given a free hand by the state government,’’ alleged Congress spokesman Veerappa Moily.
Chruch damaged in Indore
In Indore, a Protestant church in Chhawni area was set afire by miscreants late on Saturday night leading to minor damage to the building. The church has been a bone of contention between two factions within the same community, said police sources.
With inputs from HTC, Indore