End attack on Christians, Satheesan tells PM

No arrests so far on December 11 attacks at Kolar, Belagavi

Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan has drawn the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the “recent wave of attacks by right-wing outfits against minority groups in the country.”

In an open letter on Sunday expressing concern at the turn of events, Mr. Satheesan said: “It is disturbing to see the right-wing groups with allegiance to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have recently carried out horrific attacks against Christians in several States, including Karnataka and Gujurat. These occurrences are in stark violation of the right to life and religious freedom guaranteed by our Constitution.”

On December 11, a mob attacked Christians at Kolar in Karnataka and set their religious books on fire. The same day at Belagavi, an armed man pursued a priest menacingly. There have been no arrests in both incidents. The police appeared to be hand in glove with the perpetrators. Karnataka’s resolve to curb the grave human rights violations was in question.

The People’s Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL) had counted 39 attacks against the Christian community in Karnataka in 2021. There is a palpable sense of fear among Christians. The situation has forced them to shut down their places of worship and desist from gathering for Sunday prayers.

The State seemed complicit in attacks on prayer gatherings. The police had served notices on scores of churches to stop prayer meetings. In many cases, the police arrested pastors and believers instead of those who perpetrated the attacks.

The State’s failure to protect the fundamental rights of Christians had pushed them to the edge of mainstream society. They were finding it an uphill task to access education, shelter, and get about their livelihood or even protect their dignity.

Karnataka Chief Minister’s decision to bring legislation on forcible religious conversion had aggravated the “volatile situation” in the State. The proposed law was patently anti-minority and could be used to harass and intimidate them.

Far-right groups had targeted Christians in Madhya Pradesh (30 instances) and Uttar Pradesh (22). In Gujarat, the State had used the Gujurat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, to prosecute the Missionaries of Charity.

The police had accused the charity founded by Mother Teresa of hurting religious sentiments and using a shelter home at Vadodara to convert young girls to Christianity. At Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, the police arrested travelling nuns from a train after a mob accused them of converting Hindus.

The attacks were a blatant violation of the constitutional freedom to profess and practice a religion of one’s choice.

International forums had expressed concern about the persecution of minorities. In 2020, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a global watchdog, demoted India to “Countries of particular concern” in its annual report. Mr. Satheesan sought the Prime Minister’s urgent intervention to halt the targetting of minorities.

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