ibnlive » India

Sep 15, 2008 at 05:02pm IST

Third Sunday in a row, churches attacked

Bangalore: Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa has ordered an enquiry into Sunday's attacks on seven churches.

The Karnataka CM is scheduled to visit Mangalore and Udupi, where churches were vandalised.

This is the third Sunday in a row when the Christian community has been targeted in the BJP ruled state.

Attacks on churches continue in three communally sensitive districts by suspected Bajrang Dal activists.

The state has a BJP led government ruling the assembly and chief minister Yeddyurappa does not wish to send out a panic amongst the minorities.

Sculptures and prayer halls in churches were vandalised. Terror struck the Chrisitian communities of Mangalore, Udupi and Chikmangalur in the state shortly before morning mass on Sunday.

"We had just cleaned up the place and started out when some people came and attacked the church," said Paul, a church employee.

"There were about 15 to 20 people on bikes and they left soon after," he added.

The attacks led to a bandh in Mangalore which has a sizable Christian population.

Most shopkeepers and private bus operators in Mangalore stopped work.

The state police are worried about the recurring pattern of attacks on churches allegedly by saffron groups.

Police have also surrounded the Cordel church in Mangalore asking protesters to surrender presently a bandh called by the Christian community is on at Mangalore and Udupi.

Some highways including the Mangalore - Mumbai National Highway have been blocked. Police have already clamped prohibitory orders in these areas.

The Hindutva groups say these churches indulge in forced conversions. The Christian groups are quick to point out that the attacks started after the BJP came to power three months back.

"We're not people who indulge in violence. We came to pray and we are peace loving people. The community will hold a meeting to see how to counter this," said father Willliam, the spokesperson at the Bishop's office.

The Karnataka home minister Dr V S Acharya however gives a clean chit to the Bajrang Dal.

"We condemn these attacks and we'll take action against the culprits. But Bajrang Dal has no role in this. At the same time, in the name of conversions, some people are offering incentives to helpless people and converting them," said Acharya.

Immediately after the attacks, prohibitory orders were clamped in Mangalore. Christian groups demonstrated demanding that the accused be brought to book.

(With inputs from Abbas Kinya)