Karnataka on Monday decided to treat those attacking places of worship as 'goondas' (thugs) and prosecute them under a tough law popularly known as 'Goonda Act'.
The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting called to consider steps to end the continuing attacks on Christian places of worship in the state that began in coastal Karnataka on Sept 14 and spread to Bangalore Saturday night.
"All those attacking places of worship will be arrested and prosecuted under the Goonda Act," Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa told reporters.
The 1987 act provides for preventive detention for three months, extendable by three months at a time and imposes stringent conditions for bail.
The act is officially called 'The Karnataka Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug Offenders, Gamblers, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders and Slum Grabbers Act'.
The cabinet also decided to provide round-the-clock security at places of worship, Yeddyurappa said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister is under intense pressure from the central government, besides Christian community leaders and opposition parties, to check the attacks.
The central government, in a rare development, sent two advisories in two days to the state government expressing concern over the attacks and suggesting that all efforts be made to end them.
Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Yeddyurappa met Governor Rameshwar Thakur and briefed him about the action the government has taken since Sep 14.
He also announced that the police have been directed to keep a close watch on the activities of HT Sangliana, a former Bangalore city police commissioner and expelled BJP Lok Sabha MP from Bangalore, as well as VM Samuel, head of New Life Fellowship Trust.
The Trust is accused by Hindu groups like Bajrang Dal of involvement in converting Hindus and distributing literature insulting Hindu gods. Samuel has denied the charges.
"The two have been issuing inflammatory statements and indulging in conversion activity," Yeddyurappa said.
Sangliana, elected to the Lok Sabha from Bangalore North, was expelled from the BJP for voting in favour of the Manmohan Singh government in the July 22 confidence vote in the Lok Sabha.
Yeddyurappa attacked the central government for sending the two advisories and said it was adopting double standards.
"The union home ministry did not dare send advisories (to state governments) when serial blasts took place in Delhi recently, when 20,000 Hindus were massacred in Jammu and Kashmir, when there were serial blasts in Mumbai, when the Andhra Pradesh home minister was killed and when 18 people were killed in Singur," he said.
He said five people have been arrested in Kodagu district Sunday on charges of persuading Hindus to embrace Christianity. A church in the area was damaged in stone throwing Saturday night.
The attack on a church in northeast Bangalore Saturday night was a case of theft, Yeddyurappa said.