Hate Watch: Right-Wing group sing bhajans in Karnataka church as “protest” 

Archbishop of Bengaluru had warned against such vigilante after Karnataka’s Backward & Minority Welfare Department proposed a survey of “Christian missionaries and places of worship”

ight-Wing group sing bhajans in Karnataka church as "protest" 

Men belonging to Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) sat down and sung Hindu bhajans in a Karnataka church, and alleged that the church authorities were “conducting forced religious conversions”.

The Bairidevarkoppa Church in Hubli has said no conversions were taking place. According to news reports, the group of men all belonging to right wing groups, allegedly forced their way into the church on Sunday morning. They sat at the back of the church, without masks and sang a bhajan, rather repeating the chant “Sri Ram jai Ram jai jai Ram”. 

The men were reportedly claiming this was their way of `protest’ and they alleged that there were forced religious conversions taking place there. The video clip of the incident showed that there were dozens of other women and men sitting inside the church at the time. According to a report in NDTV, the local MLA Arvind Bellad of the Bharatiya Janata Party, “blocked a highway demanding the arrest of pastor Somu Avaradhi.” It was reported that both, members of the church and the activists of the right-wing organisations, have alleged that they were also attacked over the incident. “Pastor Somu and some of his associates were admitted to hospital with minor injuries,” stated the news report adding that he has “been named in a complaint under the law for protection of Scheduled Castes and Tribes as well as one against “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings” and was arrested while three others were let off after questioning.

Meanwhile the church authorities told the media that they also filed a complaint on Monday. Labu Ram, the Commissioner of Police for Hubli-Dharwad said, “The investigation is going on. Only Somu Avaradhi has been arrested. So far, we have not received any complaint from the church.” However, according to Cedric Jacob, a senior member of the church, “When they started chanting bhajan in our church, the pastor Somu Avaradhi came. He was gheroed by them. A few ladies were also there who sustained injury during the heated situation and the pushing pulling.” 

Raghu Sakleshpora, the State Convenor of the Bajrang Dal alleged, “A man called Vishvanath was taken there for conversion. He went to the police station from the church and filed a complaint against Pastor Somu and others. Later, our members assembled inside the church and in order to protest, started singing Hindu bhajans.” The case against the pastor was filed by Shashi, a Bajrang Dal member, alleging forced conversions and accused the pastor of abusing him in the church when he chanted Hindu prayers.

Anti-Christian vigilante on the prowl

The Archbishop of Bengaluru recently reacted strongly to the reports of Karnataka’s Backward & Minority Welfare Department’s proposed survey of “Christian missionaries and places of worship”. The Church leader has said that such a decision can lead to targeting of Christians, especially their religious places and leaders, as incidents have already been reported from North Karnataka. On Friday, Archbishop of Bengaluru Archdiocese Peter Machado wrote, “We are sad that the Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Basavaraj Bommai, whom we regard highly as a broad-minded and enlightened person, succumbs to pressures from fundamentalist groups, who wish to indulge in disturbing the peace, harmony and peaceful co-existence in society.” 

The Archbishop said that the proposed survey of the Christian missionaries and places of worship was a “futile and unnecessary” exercise “no good will come out of it”. He reminded the authorities that “in the background of the conversion bogey and anti-religious feelings that are being whipped up, it is dangerous to make such surveys. With this our community places of worship as also pastors and sisters will be identified and may be unfairly targeted. We are already hearing of such sporadic incidents in the north and in Karnataka already.”



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