CAUSES FOR VIOLENCE:
Based of the depositions placed before the team by the aggrieved
parties and citizens the following seem to be the causes for the said violence:
1. The murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati in Kandmal district of Orissa, led to violent clashes between Hindus and Christians which slowly spread to other parts of Orissa also.
2. Leaders of the Christian community in Karnataka called for a
state-wide closure of their educational institutions and peace marches on 14th September to express their solidarity with the victims of the attacks against Christians in Orissa.
The above actions by the Christian Community were seen as a negative action by Hindu organizations and others. It created a divide in society fanning hatred and unrest.
3. The denigration of Hinduism, Hindu practices, Hindu Gods and Goddesses by Christian evangelists has caused extreme pain to Hindu Society.
4. Insecurity of Hindu Society caused by intense and active evangelists is also cited as a cause for the simmering anger. There are claims of coerced conversion by evangelists through monetary allurement as also by showing Hindu Religion in a negative light.
5. Prayer Halls and other Christian worshipping places throughout DK used for weaning Hindus away from the Hindu way of life too have been viewed as a cause.
According to a large number of people and organizations that deposed before the team, intense evangelical activity and denigration of Hindu icons and practices, the killing of the Swami in Kandhamal and the Christian leaders’ call for protest closure of schools led to the sudden eruption of violence in Dakshina Karnataka, especially in Mangalore and Udupi, on 14th and 15th September.
Detailed Causes as deposed by the aggrieved parties are:
DENIGRATION OF HINDU GODS & GODDESSES:
Many Christian groups have been indulging in aggressive evangelization and conversion activities in recent years in Mangalore and surrounding districts. They denigrate Hindu gods and their rituals in their attempt to get new adherents to their faith from Hindu community. One such example, are the contents of a booklet called Satyadarshini printed and circulated by Newlife denigrates Hindus gods as follows:
- Urvashi – the daughter of Narayana – is a prostitute. Vashitha is the son of this prostitute. He in turn married his own Mother. Such a degraded person is the Guru of the Hindu God Rama. (page 48)
- When Krishna himself is wallowing in darkness of hell, how can he enlighten others? Since Krishna himself is a shady character, there is a need for us to liberate his misled followers. (page 50)
- It was Brahma himself who kidnapped Sita. Since Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva were themselves the victims of lust, it is a sin to consider them as Gods. (page 39)
- When the Trinity of Hinduism (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) are consumed by lust and anger, how can they liberate others. Their projection as Gods is nothing but a joke. (page 39).
- When Vishnu asked Brahma to commit a sin, he immediately did so. How can such an “evil brahma” be a Creator of this Universe? How is it possible for both the sinner and the entity which provoked the sin to be gods? (page 39)
- God, please liberate the sinful people of India who are worshipping False Gods that believe in the pleasures of illicit ‘Vyabichari’ relationships. (Page 39).
CONVERSION BY COERCION, INDUCEMENTS(Based on depositions given by aggrieved parties)
The Christian evangelists and missionaries have been targeting the poor and illiterate extensively as also the youth. Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes like Kudubis, Vishwakarmas and Lingayats are some who have fallen prey. Their modus operandi is to visit poor Hindu houses without their permission and distribute Christian tracts and literature. They seek those who are mentally and financially weak and induce them to give up their Hindu way of life and join the Christian religion with promises of moral and financial support on conversion to Christianity.
There is a drastic increase in recent times in aggressive faith marketing strategies followed by the Christian groups in this region, which has caused this anger against Christians.
ENCROACHMENT OF PRIVATE AND PUBLIC PROPERTY:(Based on actual visit and enquiry)
There have been instances of Christian groups encroaching upon public and private properties in Mangalore. Two specific cases in point are:
The Nagavana, at Shanthinagar, is a place of worship for the Kudubi tribes for centuries, The property has been encroached upon by the International Jesus Christ Church in India. A large church complex and living quarters have been built on this land by desecrating the sanctity of the Nagavana and also preventing the Kudubis from their worship at their sanctified shrine. It has led to much emotional trauma to the tribals of incomplete rituals. There has been a continuing protest by the Kudubi community but of no avail.
The same Church also causes much disturbance to the entire neighborhood with its week-end events that include loud music and dancing through the night shattering the peace and tranquility of the entire area. The leaders of the Kudubis have expressed their anger and disgust, displeasure and resentment, against the presence of this Christian group several times in the past to the civic authorities and have also legally proceeded against them in the civil court.
The founder of this church is Pastor Mani David Joseph and the present pastor is Immanuel Santosh Kumar.
This is a hillock belonging to the government. A couple of years back, the Catholic Church authorities encroached on it and erected several crosses all around its boundaries. They also built a statue of the Crucified Jesus Christ and a house-like structure. The Mangalore Bishop inaugurated it on January 20, 2007.
The Mangalore Municipal Corporation has illegally allotted a number to the structure thus giving it a semblance of legal sanction, thus creating an impression among the local people that the land and the structures are owned by the Catholic diocese.
The local residents who met the team at the site asserted that this
particular property belongs to the government. They wanted to know how the Municipality had allowed the Christians to erect the structures, a statue of Crucified Jesus Christ and several concrete crosses on the said government land.
Some activists of Hindu organizations have, in the aftermath of
Mangalore incidents, hoisted several flags on this land in protest
against the illegal occupation of the hillock by the Catholic Church.
Incidents such as these have led to growing anger, heartburn and
tension amongst Hindus against Christians.
Sensing the simmering communal tension in the area the administration has invoked Section 145 of CRPC and taken over the illegally occupied land. Police have set up a small outpost and a squad is also stationed there to guard the place.
CONVERSION ATTEMPTS & POLICE APATHY:
(Based on depositions and enquiries)
Despite lodging cases with the police regarding conversion attempts by Christian groups, the police authorities have not taken action by registering cases against the accused in the past. This is evident from the records of the police.
One Smt. Rati and Anantapadmanabha had lodged a compliant on 17-12-2005 itself. The same has been registered as C.MIS. No. 306 of 2005 and 307 of 2005 within the jurisdiction of
Kundapur Police. However, no investigation has been conducted and no further action has been taken.
Mr. M. Santhosh S/o Bachha Poojary had lodged a complaint in Crime Number 267 of 2006 under Section 153A, 448 (Read with Sec. 34 of IPC).
In this regard, the police have filed a charge sheet and it is under
trial in the criminal court. This evidence clearly establishes the
fact that everything is not normal in the coastal district of
Mangalore and Udupi with regard to illegal conversions. However, there was no answer from the police with regard to the complaint lodged by Ratheeh and Padmanabha despite adequate evidences.
RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE CAUSES
The immediate response was to attack prayer halls, churches and
fellowship houses belonging to evangelical Christian groups like New Life, Pentecostal, Believers’ Church, Assemblies of God etc. They are known as para churches and are independent of the mainline churches, like the Catholic and Church of South India, Mar Thoma Syrian Church etc.
On 14th September some miscreants damaged and desecrated the idol of Jesus Christ at the Perpetual Adoration Chapel of the Monastery of the Poor Clares in the premises of Milagres Catholic church in Mangalore.
The VHP and Bajrang Dal have condemned the desecration of Jesus Christ’s idol in the chapel. They have also clarified that they are not against the Catholic Church.
To the pointed questions to those who deposed before the fact-finding team as to why the miscreants turned their ire against the Catholic Church the answer was simple and straightforward: ” How can we – the Hindus – distinguish between Catholic Christians and evangelicals? All denominations of Christianity are one and the same in the eyes of Hindus and we need not know the differences within the Christian community.”
INCIDENTS AT HOLY CROSS CHURCH :
A CASE STUDY
(based on depositions, video, enquiry and visit)
On 14th and 15th, church bells continuously tolled in all the Catholic Churches of Mangalore signaling to the faithful that the churches were in imminent threat of destruction. Consequently at the Holy Cross Church compound in Kulashekar, about 800 Parishioners gathered within few minutes. In addition, many people who had attended the first Mass were holed up inside the Church
All the gates to the church premises and school building adjacent to the church were locked from within. The school was closed inspite of a government directive not to close schools.
Some miscreants from among the crowd inside the Church compound snatched away the wireless set from ASI. They were asked to return it and the priest was unable to convince the youngsters to do so saying that he was recently transferred to the church and did not know anyone of them personally and therefore helpless.
The police surrounded the compound from outside because all the gates were locked. Police Inspector Ganapathy repeatedly asked the miscreants on the megaphone to voluntarily come out and surrender the police wireless set. He also requested the crowd to disperse as it was against the curfew orders that had been clamped to congregate inpublic.
The negotiations went on for almost 5 hours until the SP Mangalore Sri Satheesh Kumar arrived on the scene. The situation was getting out of control. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, he entered the compound wearing a helmet supplied by a constable and broke open the gates with the help of about 50 constables.
As they moved in, they were attacked with stones and bricks from the top of the school. The action photos of youngsters – face covered with duppatas/clothes given to them by girls/women — throwing stones and roof tiles from the third and fourth floors of the school in the Church compound, are seen in the unedited videos in the possession of the fact-finding team. This was handed over to them by an amateur free-lance videographer.
When the miscreants started attacking the police, the SP had no other option but to order lathi-charge and ultimately burst teargas shells. In the melee, several policemen were injured and a lady constable suffered serious head injuries. A Tata Sumo belonging to the police (Dy.SP) was also destroyed by the miscreants.
CHURCH USING CLEVERLY EDITED TAPES TO SPREAD HATRED
It has come to the notice of the fact-finding team that the Church authorities have been circulating doctored video clips on the happenings in the church. Fr. Frances Vincent of Holy Cross Church showed us the tampered video to prove that the police action against the Church members, said to be numbering about 800, was brutal, inhuman and heartless. He also emphatically claimed that the police ‘brutality’ was without provocation on 15th September and in violation of all canons of human rights – Indian Constitution and the UN Declarations on Human Rights.
The video clips in the possession of the Church were supplied by the same source that gave the fact finding team the unedited version of the video pictures. It is shocking that the video tapes in the possession of the fact finding team show pictures of mounds of stones, sticks and bottles stored inside the Holy Cross church. There is no explanation by the Church as to why those materials were stored inside the Church.
Circulation of such doctored tapes by the Church authorities have been further stoking the flames of ill-will against the police and the Hindus at large.
PRAYER HALLS IN SHOPPING COMPLEXES:
The team has received a representation from the businessmen of Krishna Krupa shopping complex wherein they have complained that New Life fellowship has taken on rental premises for the purpose of prayer even though they are not entitled for the same. They have further complained that the Blessings Prayer Hall under the Assemblies of God Church (AG) is using the premises for prayer meeting and singing with musical instruments and high decibel microphones thereby causing nuisance to the inmates and the business community.
Immediately after the violent incident on 14th Sept.2008, the police have increased their deployment thereby causing hindrance to the business activities. Further they have requested the authorities to vacate the Prayer Hall from the above said shopping complex.
- 72 cases of arson were registered in Mangalore and two in Udupi.
- 67 policemen suffered injuries when Christians attacked the police.
- 26 Christians and 17 Hindus were injured in police lathi charge.
The police too did cross the limits of mild-lathi-charge. However, it is fair to suggest that the police were also at their wit’s end having seen some of their injured members and did not want to take any chance, especially when they did not have any wherewithal to judge the armed nature of the miscreants.
A warning to the government: The team was shocked to hear Fr. Vincent’s angry and ominous comment at the Holy Cross Church: ” If the Hindus have a right to protest against attacks on their temples, we, as Christians too have the same rights. And when cornered, we too will attack them hereafter and our bells will toll and call for support from the Christian community”. It is a warning the government should not ignore
All the incidents of violence that came to the notice of the team were directed against what is known as para-churches, house churches, Christian fellowships and associations belonging to New Life, Pentecostal, Believers Church, Assemblies of Gods etc. All of them are independent of the mainstream Christian churches in India.
The Catholic Churches were targeted because of mistaken identity.
The majority of Hindus cannot distinguish between the mainline
churches and the para churches. These incidents were not localized but took place across the district of Mangalore, Udupi and Chikmagalur.
Dakshina Kannada is sitting on a time bomb of Hindu – Christian Evangelist strife.
The sordid events in Mangalore and elsewhere are the obvious result of unethical religious conversions and the denigration of Hindu practices and symbols by evangelists that polarize families and communities and aggravate long standing social conflicts as also.
Our appeal to the sensitive and sensible Christians is that they should realize that the acts of certain groups of Christian evangelists are the root cause of tension between Christians and Hindus. They should come out in the open to disown such acts of intolerance. It is the responsibility of these Christians to strive hard to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and not to denigrate the faith of their neighbours in their religious beliefs and sentiments.
The Team is of the opinion that timely and outright condemnation of hate literature by the Christian leadership would have pre-empted the spate of violence in Mangalore. It is time the mainline churches disowned and distanced themselves from what the late Pope John Paul termed as: “the evangelical wolves”.
We are of the opinion that the violent incidents in Mangalore were not pre-planned. They were a spontaneous reaction to the immediate causes as already mentioned. We are convinced that aggressive evangelization and conversions to Christianity, specially in Mangalore is being carried on mainly by the para-churches (evangelical) and not by the Catholic Church.
Leaders of communities and politicians should be aware and responsible and not to cause a further fracture in society.
An atmosphere of MUTUAL RESPECT should be instilled and encouraged amongst all religions.
The government should have a legal process to bar forced and coerced conversions.
THE ROAD AHEAD
We are of the humble opinion that the Christian leadership must make conscious efforts to delete any derogatory references to Hinduism by any of its manifold Churches and continuously monitor them for infraction. Christians must desist from aggressive evangelisation and conversion activities. PREACH CHRIST, BUT DO NOT CONDEMN OTHERS
Conscious of our limitations in facing challenges posed by the
prevailing tension and misunderstandings between Christians and Hindus in Mangalore and elsewhere consequent to the recent incidents of violence there, we affirm our faith in one another, and our hope for a society where divisions will cease and people will live together in harmony, respect, love and compassion.