Karnataka Christians afraid to conduct prayer meetings due to RW attacks: reporttext_fields
Christians in the Belagavi district of Karnataka have been issued a 'friendly warninf' by police not to conduct prayer meetings until the conclusion of the Winter Session of the Karnataka assembly which will be held in Belagavi next month and where a controversial 'anti-conversion bill' may be tabled claimed a report by The News Minute.
The Christian sects in the area fear attacks by the Sri Rama Sene and Bajrang Dal outfits which have been "barging into churches", disrupting worship and destroying places of worship according to Pastor Benny Paul Saturi who was part of the pastor group that was called to talks with the police.
"They (rightwing activists) barge into churches, break things, attack people, but finally cases are booked against pastors accusing them of forced conversion. Many are now conducting prayer meetings on Zoom calls. We do not want to give them a chance," said Pastor Thomas. "Belagavi is being focussed on these activities because the Winter Session will be held here and they want to push for an anti-conversion Bill in the Assembly session," he was quoted as saying by The News Minute.
According to landlords in the area, most people fear renting out spaces to Christians fearing backlash from the likes of the Sri Ram Sene which is particularly influential in the area. A delegation of Hindu seers, along with Sri Rama Sene's infamous president Pramod Muthalik, met the CM and reiterated the demand for the anti-conversion law at the earliest, a move which Christians fear will be used to target them.
On Wednesday, a delegation of Bishops and Christian leaders led by Reverend Nandu Kumar, and Reverend Derek Fernandes met the Belagavi Police Commissioner and submitted a memorandum, seeking protection.
The memorandum copy that TNM accessed read, "This is a dangerous development wherein it appears that instead of giving protection to the Christians we are asked to stop all our activities because of the threats posed by certain sections of people in the society. We would personally feel instead of restraining the priests and pastors from praying, the miscreants should be booked and action taken. All that is happening in these prayer halls is within the framework of the Constitution."
The Inspector of the Camp Police Station in Belagavi told reporters that fears of RW extremists attacking churches had prompted the police to request Christians not to hold public meetings and to install CCTV cameras around churches. They were also advised not to bring people from other faiths or castes to the meetings in order to forestall accusations of false conversions, he said.
"We have around 20 believers attending our Sunday prayers. Most of them are daily wage earners and are very scared of getting into any trouble. In Belagavi, only protestants are being targeted because unlike Catholics, they are not very influential," another pastor who chose to remain anonymous told TNM.
Karnataka had also ordered a survey of churches earlier this year in order to check alleged forced conversions which had prompted a public outcry on tbe basis of oppression of minorities.