Christian books set ablaze, priest chased in Karnataka

The developments surfaced as chief minister Basavaraj Bommai hinted at bringing a law against religious conversions during the winter session of the assembly in Belagavi.
Screengrab of a viral video purportedly showed a man chasing a priest with a machete in Karnataka.
Screengrab of a viral video purportedly showed a man chasing a priest with a machete in Karnataka.
Updated on Dec 13, 2021 05:25 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Members of right-ring groups set ablaze Christian religious books alleging religious conversion by the church while a viral video purportedly showed a man chasing a priest with a machete, in Karnataka this week, police said on Saturday.

The developments surfaced as chief minister Basavaraj Bommai hinted at bringing a law against religious conversions during the winter session of the assembly in Belagavi. 

According to police, members of the Christian community in Srinivaspur town of Kolar district, about 65 km from Bengaluru, were on Saturday reportedly going door-to-door to distribute some religious texts when members of right-wing groups protested and set them ablaze. 

“Some neighbours in Srinivaspur objected to these people going door-to-door and handing out some reading material. Although material appeared to be greeting cards for Christmas,” the official, who did not wish to be named, said. 

The official clarified that the Bible, the holy book of the Christians, was not among the items that were set on fire by the right-wing members. 

No case was registered at the time of filing this report as, according to police, neither parties had approached them with a complaint. 

On the same day, an unidentified man armed with a machete barged into a church in Belagavi and chased the priest in charge. 

In a video that went viral on social media, the man, with the machete in hand, is seen following Father Francis D’Souza, parish priest of St Joseph Worker Church on Bauxite Road, who on seeing him moves away. The intruder continues to follow the priest for some time before leaving the spot. 

While it is not clear why the man visited the church, the priest later left the premises over fears of a possible attack on the community, people familiar with the matter said. 

APMC police station was informed about the incident and a probe is underway, the people added.

On Sunday, Bommai hinted that the draft of the anti-conversion bill would be approved by the state cabinet and it may be introduced in the Belagavi winter session which begins from Monday. 

“A majority of people want to ban religious conversion. The law department is reviewing it (draft bill). After the review, it will be cleared in the cabinet meeting,” he told reporters in Hubballi. 

“In all probability, the draft rule proposed by the law department would be approved and the subject may come up for discussion (in the assembly session),” he added. 

Claiming that religious conversion was not good for the society, the chief minister said the downtrodden people should not succumb to it.

Bommai, however, clarified that people of all religious communities need not panic with respect to the anti-conversion law.

“Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Sikhs are the faiths recognised by the constitution and there is no problem for people to pray or follow their respective religions. However, there is no scope for misusing someone’s poverty to lure them to change their faith,” he said. 

Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have so far passed a bill proposing amendments to the Freedom of Religion Act, 2002 to ensure stringent punishment for forced religious conversions.

A fact finding report by several civil society organisations earlier this month claimed that Karnataka was witnessing one of the highest incidents of attack against Christians due to the government’s “attitude”. 

The report by United Christian Forum (UCF), Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), and United Against Hate also claimed that Karnataka ranks third among states with the most number of attacks on the community and their places of worship in India.

According to APCR, there were at least 305 incidents of violence between January and September this year across the country. 

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Friday, January 28, 2022