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Christian groups retaliate

Karnataka Bureau

Four policemen injured and one person stabbed in Dakshina Kannada district

— Photo: R. Eswarraj

Police bring out miscreants holed up in the St. Sebastian church at Thokuttu in Mangalore on Monday.

MANGALORE: A day after prayer halls were attacked, Christian groups retaliated by targeting policemen in different parts of Dakshina Kannada district. At least four policemen were injured. One case of stabbing was reported by Monday evening.

Meanwhile, three more incidents of violence against Christian institutions were reported since Sunday night. While masked men targeted a shop in Kalladka village around 10.30 a.m., about 25 km from Mangalore, the St. Ann’s Friary Grotto near Canara College was attacked by another group. A gang attacked a prayer hall in the Padavu Pre-University College on the Mangalore-Udupi Road on Sunday night.

This takes the number of attacks on prayer halls in Dakshina Kannada district to 11.

A Christian prayer hall in Chickballapur district, about 50 km from Bangalore, was attacked on Monday by suspected Sangh Parivar activists.

Most businessmen kept their establishments closed in Mangalore, Surathkal and B.C. Road. There was a partial bandh in Ullal. Buses remained off the road and educational institutions remained closed.

Retaliatory violence began in the morning with the stoning of a KSRTC bus near Bejai Church. Restive crowds assembled in churches and turned them into virtual fortresses. Those inside the churches started throwing stones at the police.

A team of policemen — including the special action force Vajra, led by Superintendent of Police N. Sateesh Kumar — forced its entry into the churches to flush out those inside. The police were seen beating people emerging from the churches.

However, in some churches like St. Agnes, people staged a peaceful protest demanding “justice” and quick action against those who attacked the churches on Sunday. “The police assaulted even women and children,” alleged Leslie Rego, who was coordinating the agitation at the St. Agnes Church.

At a press conference in Mangalore, Bishop of Mangalore Diocese Aloysius Paul D’ Souza denied that the diocese had been involved in any forceful religious conversion.

“Deeply hurt”

Saying that the community was “deeply hurt” by the recent events, he said the attackers had not even spared the nuns of the congregation of Cloistered Carmelites. The nuns of this order were deeply religious and rarely came out of the premises. Quoting census figures, he said the Christian population had actually dropped between 1991 and 2001. This was proof that there had not been large-scale conversion to Christianity as alleged by the Sangh Parivar.

Meanwhile, Inspector-General of Police (Western Range) A.M. Prasad said 53 Bajrang Dal activists were arrested in connection with the attacks on prayer halls. More than 100 people were rounded up after Monday’s violence, he said.

Mr. Prasad said the alleged failure of the police to take precautionary measures would be investigated.

Eighteen people, including 13 Bajrang Dal activists, were arrested in connection with Sunday’s attacks on prayer halls in Chikmagalur district. Five persons were arrested for allegedly encouraging residents of Singatagere village to convert to Christianity.

The Udupi Town police arrested five persons on charge of attacking a prayer hall here on Sunday.

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