‘39 attacks on Christians in Karnataka this year’

In almost all cases, perpetrators are Hindutva groups, with whom police colluded, alleges PUCL

Documenting 39 instances of attacks on members of the Christian community this year, a report by People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) on ‘Hate crimes on Christians in Karnataka, 2021’ has alleged that all recent attacks on members of the community were perpetrated by Hindutva organisations. In most instances, the police colluded with these groups, alleges ‘Criminalising the Practice of Faith’, the report released on Tuesday, which documents cases till the end of November.

The report was written after speaking to 39 pastors from each of these incidents. However, there are several other cases that have gone undocumented, the report said.

“The perpetrators behind these communal hate crimes in all the instances are Hindutva organisations, namely Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Jagrana Vedike. A new organisation name that has emerged from the accounts is that of Banjara Nigama. This organisation appears to be small but rather violent,” the report said, adding that two MLAs – Sunil Hegde and minister M.C. Narayana Gowda – were also named by community members as people who supported the police in targeting them. The report said that in almost every instance, the attackers have hurled casteist slurs and abuses at those gathered.

“Almost in every instance of mob violence studied in this report, it can be observed in the chain of events that the police have colluded with Hindutva groups… the police actively work to criminalise the lives of Christians and stop them from organising prayer meetings,” the report states.

In most cases, while police arrived minutes after the mob stormed the prayer meeting, they “join the Hindutva organisations in accusing the pastors of converting Christians against their will. In several instances, the police, instead of protecting the victims of violence, take the pastors and believers to police stations and book cases. Despite serious efforts being made by the lawyers from the Christian community, in some of the cases, the police have refused to file a complaint against the mob leaders,” the report alleged, adding that in some instances, police have tried to broker peace between the two groups. “This complicit role of the police emboldens a culture of intolerance and bigotry. Through the complicity, the police have become an arm of social segregators strengthening such Hindutva forces,” the report further said.

However, when contacted, Praveen Sood, DG and IGP, Karnataka State Police, denied “any collusion” on their part. “It may be PUCL’s view that we colluded. But I maintain that we have acted impartially in every case,” he said.

The report also documents how the community members have been “socially boycotted” in several instances. “What is particularly alarming is the discrimination and social boycott that the Christians have faced from persons who are not a part of these Hindutva organisations, such as their own neighbours, landowners, employers, small businesses like grocery stores, even schools, in their localities,” the report said.

Even without an anti-conversion law, the attack on Christian minorities has been a weekly affair, and such a bill is likely to only make matters worse for the community by giving carte blanche for excesses by vigilantes, the report notes.

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