(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 28 , 2008
Communal Fascists On The Rampage In Karnataka
EVEN as the country was recovering from the shocking news of the previous day’s serial bomb blasts in the national capital Delhi, the people of Karnataka were shocked to learn about another set of serial attacks in their state. By noon of September 14, 2008 all TV channels in the state were flashing reports of serial attacks conducted simultaneously on 15 places of worship of Christians in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Chikkamagaluru districts, between 10 a.m and 11.30 a.m on that day, a Sunday. There was no need for the police to prepare sketches of the attackers in this case as they did in the case of suspected terrorists involved in Delhi blasts. The state convenor of Bajrang Dal, along with the district convenor of VHP, promptly appeared before the visual media and proudly claimed responsibility for the attacks. All this while the chief minister and home minister were declaring that the culprits will be booked!
The rehearsal for the attacks on places of worship of Christians had been done around a month back at a place called “Kurse Gudde” in local Tulu language which means Crucifix Hill. It is a 1.5 acre plot of land situated at Pachanady near Bondel Church, Mangalore. The Bondel Parish has erected 14 holy crosses in this place as per a system mentioned in the bible. These crosses exist there since the last 60 years. The Bondel Parish has different zones whose members assemble and hold prayers in their respective areas once in a month. Thus the Christian families of Pachanady assemble in the ‘Kurse Gudde’ on the second Sunday of every month and hold mass prayer. One day, all of a sudden, the Bajrang Dal people trespassed into the said land and planted saffron flags there. The Parish priest of Bondel church lodged a complaint with the tahsildar of Mangalore. The tahsildar imposed prohibitory order under section 144 of Cr.PC in that area and posted police men under the pretext of maintaining status-quo. Consequently, the saffron flags continued to remain there under police protection and Christians were prevented from holding their monthly prayer. Except for holding a press conference by the Parish priest, there was no protest from the Christians. It was only the CPI(M) leadership which visited the place and issued a press statement condemning the trespass into the place of worship and also questioning the so-called status quo since status quo actually means the position as existed before planting of saffron flags. As there was no serious protest by the Christians, the rehearsal was a success. Emboldened by their success in ‘Kurse Gudde’ the Bajrang Dal embarked on the main act of serial attacks.
The most atrocious attack was committed at 10.00 a.m. on September 14 at Adoration Monastery near Milagres Church at the heart of Mangalore city. This monastery is the dwelling place of catholic nuns living under religions vows. Numbering hardly ten, these nuns continuously pray inside completely-closed premises and they rarely come out. On day one of the serial attacks, the hoodlums entered into the prayer hall of the monastery and demolished whatever they could see before them. They broke the legs and hand of the idol of Jesus Christ, destroyed every other object which were considered to be sacred to the Christians, besides destroying the window panes and furniture.
The inmates, rudely shocked, telephoned to the police after the hooligans left the place. The police came and the questions they asked the nuns were, whether they have licence to run the monastery, whether their organisation is linked to foreign organisations, whether they receive foreign funds, etc. Nothing about the attacks conducted in various places. The district administration promulgated prohibitory orders under section 144 of Cr.PC.
Nine places of worship of Christians were attacked in Dakshina Kannada district, three in Udupi district and three in Chikkamagaluru district on the same day, around the same time. At Ujire in Belthangady taluk, the hoodlums entered the church, poured kerosene on the bible and other materials of worship and set them on fire. Furniture and musical instruments were destroyed in all the places of worship where attacks were made. The attacks were definitely meant to terrorise the Christians.
MIGHTY PROTESTS BY CHRISTIANS
Within a few minutes after hearing about the heinous crime perpetrated on their sacred places, the Christian masses, men, women, and children came almost running and assembled before the Milagres Hall, adjacent to Milagres Church. Within moments their number swelled into three thousand. A protest meeting was held which was addressed by leaders of secular political parties including G V Srirama Reddy, ex MLA of CPI(M). In the prevailing tense situation, buses were taken off the roads and eventually an undeclared bandh prevailed in Mangalore city on that day. On the following day also a bandh-like situation continued in Mangalore.
Ordinary Christian masses who were deeply mortified by the serial attacks on their places of worship, rushed in thousands to the respective churches on the morning of September 15. While the Christian youth were anxious to protect their churches from attacks, the women wanted to pray for the protection of their churches. Such large gathering took place in almost all the churches of Mangalore.
In St Sebastian church, Peramannur, the prayer hall was full and thousands of Christians waited in the compound, to enter when the next mass begins. According to Father Thomas D’ Souza, Parish priest, a few Bajrang Dal activists entered the church compound and starting pelting stones on the church. The police who had assembled in large numbers, obviously to prevent any protest, suddenly entered the church and started beating up the Christians assembled in it. The beatings were extremely inhuman and barbarous. The police destroyed furniture, window panes, etc., and did not spare even an idol of Mother Mary which they broke into pieces. In this church, it was the police, under the direct command of the SP, who executed the plans of the Bajrang Dal. The injured, many of them profusely bleeding, were taken to the police station and kept there till evening without providing any first aid and even drinking water, not to speak of food.
Almost the same thing was repeated in Cordel church in Kulshekar. The added brutality in this case was the police attack on the school just opposite the church. Without any provocation the police entered the church compound and started brutal lathicharge. Many people, mostly women, ran to the school to take shelter there. The police entered the school and mercilessly beat those women including nuns. Even a 72 year old woman was not spared.
VISIT OF CPI(M) MPs
A delegation of CPI(M) MPs consisting of P Karunkaran, Suresh Kurup, Dr Manoj and Sathidevi visited Dakshina Kannada district on September 22, 2008. They were accompanied by C H Kunhambu, MLA, Manjeshwaram (Kerala), G N Nagaraj and B Madhava, CPI(M) Karnataka state secretariat members, Ramchandra Uchil, J Balakrishna Shetty, and K Vasantha Achari, state committee members, K Yadava Shetty, district secretariat member and other leaders of the district Party. They visited many of the churches which were attacked, met the Bishop of Belthangady and also the Parish priests in various churches and addressed the press.
THE PRETEXT FOR ATTACKS
The alleged conversions is the pretext held out by Bajrang Dal to justify the attacks on churches. The chief minister says that the state government has evidence of conversions and that the attacks are a consequence of these conversions. Then he makes a casual comment that nobody should take law into their hands. The Bajrang Dal convenor cites a book alleged to be published by ‘New Life’, a movement of Christians. The book titled ‘Sathya Darshini’ which seems to have been written originally in Telugu about two decades ago and translated into Kannada was printed in a press at Betageri, which was closed ten years ago. The copies of this book may not be available now, because the Bajrang Dal is furnishing xerox copies of a few pages of this book. The contents of this book are indeed atrocious. It says that Rama, Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara and others are not Gods and do not deserve to be worshipped. Such a book published decades ago with dubious credentials is now being used to whip up hatred against Christians.
While the communal fascists are taking law into their own hands, with the tacit support of the state government, some police personnel are functioning as the ‘B’ team of the Bajrang Dal. This is a dangerous development. So far only one leader of the Bajrang Dal is arrested. The arrest was made six days after the commencement of the attacks and that too, after the centre issued notice to the state government under Article 355. The large number of Bajrang Dal cadres who are openly declaring before the media that they have conducted the attacks and threatening to continue the attacks if conversions continue, are left scot free. What is amusing is the statement of BJP president Rajnath Singh that Bajrang Dal is not involved in the attacks on churches. Karnataka home minister V S Acharya has said that it is true that attacks have taken place, but there was no death! He also said that the attacks were made not by Bajrang Dal but ‘some other organisation which is not under our command’. People are demanding that this commander of communal fascists should quit from the cabinet.