Christians in southern Karnataka state are under an unprecedented wave of
Christian persecution, having faced more than 1,000 attacks in 500 days,
according to an independent investigation by a former judge of the Karnataka
The spate began on
Sept. 14, 2008, when at least 12 churches were attacked in one day in
Karnataka’s Mangalore city, in Dakshina Kannada district, said Justice Michael
Saldanha, former judge of the Karnataka High Court.
“On Jan. 26 – the day
we celebrated India’s Republic Day – Karnataka’s 1,000th attack took
place in Mysore city,” Saldanha told Compass, saying the figure was based on
reports from faith-based organizations.
Saldanha conducted the
People’s Tribunal Enquiry into the attacks on Christians in Karnataka on behalf
of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ Dakshina Kannada district chapter,
the Catholic Association of South Kanara (another name for Dakshina Kannada) and
the Karnataka Chapter of Transparency International.
“Attacks are taking
place every day,” said Saldanha, chairperson of the Karnataka Chapter of
The latest attack took
place on Wednesday (March 17), when a mob of around 150 people led by the Hindu
extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) and its youth
wing, Bajrang Dal, stormed the
funeral of a 50-year-old Christian identified only as Isaac, reported the
Karnataka-based Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).
As Pastor Sunder Raj of
St. Thomas Church in Gijahalli, near Arsikere in Hassan district, was about to
begin the funeral service, the mob pulled the coffin apart and desecrated the
cross the relatives of the deceased were carrying. They threw the body into a
tractor and dumped it outside, saying his burial would have contaminated Indian
soil and his body should be buried in Rome or the United States, added the
intervention, the funeral took place later the same day.
Blaming the state
government for the attacks, Saldanha said the ruling Hindu
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had “outdone Orissa.”
Karnataka Home Minister
V.S. Acharya denied the results of the inquiry.
“The allegation of
Karnataka having faced 1,000 attacks is absolutely false,” Acharya told Compass.
“There is liberty in the state. Sections of the media are trying to hype it, and
such claims are politically motivated. Karnataka is the most peaceful state in
India, and the people are law-abiding.”
The wave of persecution in
Karnataka began as fallout of the anti-Christian mayhem in eastern Orissa state,
where Maoists killed a VHP leader on Aug. 23, 2008, with Hindu extremists
wrongly accusing Christians. The attacks in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, the
epicenter of the bloodbath, killed more than 100 people and burned 4,640 houses,
252 churches and 13 educational institutions.
Violent attacks have
stopped in Orissa, but Karnataka continues to burn.
In addition to the
attacks, numerous Christians also have faced false charges of fraudulent or
forced conversions throughout Karnataka.
“I have been to many
police stations where complaints of [forced] conversions have been lodged
against Christians, and when I asked the police why they were acting on
frivolous complaints, most of them told me that they had orders from above,” he
In his report, he notes
that Christians “are dragged to the police station under false allegations,
immediately locked up, beaten up and denied bail by the lower judiciary, which
functions as the loyal partner of the police department and refuses bail on the
grounds that ‘the police have objected.'”
The report says 468
Christian workers in rural areas had been targeted with such actions since
“Numerous others have
been threatened and beaten up,” the report states. “The police are totally out
of control, with the lower judiciary having abdicated its constitutional
obligation of safeguarding the citizens’ rights particularly from a tyrannical
state machinery, while the state government proclaims that everything is
Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa and Home Minister Acharya are from
the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (Hindu nationalist conglomerate or the RSS), believed to
be the parent organization of the BJP, Saldanha pointed out.
He also said that
although the attacks on Christians had turned public sentiment against the BJP
in Karnataka, the party seemed to care little as both opposition parties, the
Congress Party and the regional
Janata Dal- Secular (JD-S) party, were “in shambles” in the
In May 2009 the BJP
lost general (national) elections, and since then sections of the party are in
desperation, he said, adding, “Perhaps this is one of the reasons why attacks
continue to happen in Karnataka.”
Saldanha said the state
government was controlling media coverage of the attacks by “monetary
“The citizens are told
that the situation is happy and under control, principally because the greater
part of the media is being fed or appeased with massive publicity advertisements
which have cost the state exchequer over 400 million rupees [$8.8 million],
most of the money clandestinely billed to the various Government Corporations
and Public bodies,” Saldanha states in the introduction to his yet unpublished
The BJP came to sole
power in Karnataka in May 2008. Prior to that, it ruled in alliance with the
JD-S party for 20 months.
There are a little more
than 1 million Christians in Karnataka, where the total population is over 52