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Christians in K'taka hurt: Archbishop

india Updated: Sep 23, 2008 11:08 IST
BR Srikanth
BR Srikanth
Hindustan Times
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The Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa got a earful from the Archbishop of Bangalore, Rev Bernard Moras, minutes after the Karnataka Government took a decision to invoke the provisions of Goonda Act against those nabbed for vandalising churches as part of its strategy to salvage its image and to instill confidence among christians, on Monday.

<b1>The Chief Minister, his cabinet colleagues Dr VS Acharya (Home), Shobha Karandlaje (Rural Development and Panchayat Raj), Katta Subramanya Naidu (IT, BT and Excise) and R Ashok (Transport), endured some embarrassing moments when they went to call on the Archbishop soon after a meeting of the cabinet:"Sir, we thank you for coming to the Bishop's House, but the whole church in Karnataka is hurt. I am telling you publicly that we are very hurt. Tell me, will you keep quiet if the garbha gudi (sanctum sanctorum) of a temple is destroyed ? For us, the Blessed Sacrament is the living body of Christ and we are ready to shed our blood for it. We can't tell you how much we are hurt because the Blessed Sacrament has been exposed," an emotional Archbishop told Yeddyurappa and his ministers when they called on him this afternoon.

The Chief Minister merely uttered, "Sir, we will see that the culprits are punished. Justice will be done after the inquiry."

The Archbishop, however, handed over a memorandum seeking a change in judicial probe ordered by the state government -it should be headed by a sitting judge of the high court or a retired judge of apex court, but not a retired judge of the high court (as decided by the government) in order to instill confidence among christians. "Action should be taken immediately and should not be passed off as mere minor incidents of theft and burglary where there is no loss of life or damage is minimal as stated by the Police Commissioner (Shankar M Bidari) of Bangalore, thus trivialising the matter and diverting the attention of people," the memorandum said.

Besides, the Archbioshop sought the release of christians arrested or detained (post the September 14th attack on churches) and scrapping of cases filed against them.

Earlier, the cabinet took a decision to file cases against those who vandalise places of worship of religious minorities under the Goonda Act. Officially called 'The Karnataka Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug Offenders, Gamblers, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders and Slum Grabbers Act," it provides for detention between 90 days to a year. In addition, men of Karnataka Reserve Police Force (KSRP) and Home Guards will be on duty round the clock around these places of worship.

The government has placed under suspension three constables for security lapses at St James Church, Mariyanna Palya, Bangalore, and Nellihudikeri in Madikeri district.

The Chief Minister, however, reiterated that it was an "organised conspiracy" by the Congress-Janata Dal (S) combine to destabilise his government. "These leaders are jobless and therefore have come together to tarnish the image of our government and attempt to pull it down. We have evidence of their involvement at least in one case at Sagar (shimoga district) in which the son of a former Congress member of the municipal corporation has tried to trigger communal tension by desecrating a place of worship last week," Yeddyurappa said.

Accusing the Centre of politicising the recent spate of attacks against Christian community, the Chief Minister said “Centre did not issue advisories to the state governments during Singur and Amarnath rows.”

Earlier in the day, Yeddyurappa briefed the Governor Mr Rameshwar Thakur on steps initiated by his government and held a special cabinet meeting to discuss the fallour of attacks on three churches on Sunday.