According to a study released on Wednesday by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Karnataka reported 39 incidents of hate crimes against the Christian community in 11 months in 2021.
The report, titled ‘Criminalizing the Practice of Faith,’ detailed the 39 incidents, adding that in some cases, the police department and politicians collaborated with right-wing organisations to carry out the attacks.
“Given the regularity and severity of these attacks, we rely on the Christian community’s accounts of surviving majoritarian violence in our report.” “Christians, particularly in rural Karnataka, continue to suffer risks of violence, discrimination, and survival in their daily lives,” according to the research.
The report, according to PUCL, documented attacks on pastors, believers, and churches in Karnataka between January and November 2021, as well as the tactics used by right-wing groups behind the attacks and the patterns that emerged from them.
“In Karnataka, there have been attacks that have been sanctioned by the state.” Not only has the state failed to apprehend the criminals, but it has also failed to apprehend the victims in some instances. We demand that the government obey the Tahseen Poonawalla ruling and ensure that they are treated fairly (the Christian community). We also want to make sure that the (anti-conversion) measure is aggressively opposed,” said one of the report’s authors, a former head of Amnesty International India.
According to the research, Christians have been forced to close their places of worship and refrain from gathering for Sunday services in the majority of situations. “Effectively, these attacks on praying in public, which are enforced by Hindutva groups with the State’s complicity, serve as a bar to the freedom to practise religion itself.” The attacks in Karnataka today are on the freedom to freely profess and practise religion, not on the right to propagate religion,” according to the report.
“The police have detained pastors and believers in many incidences of mob violence. They went so far as to issue formal notifications to churches ordering them to stop holding prayer meetings. “The State’s failure further marginalises a minority community in how they live their lives during Covid, as they struggle to access education, shelter, food, livelihood, and basic dignity,” it added.
According to the report, multiple right-wing organisations were involved in the attack, and two MLAs from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were also implicated in the attacks. “Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Sunil Kumar and 3-time BJP MLA Narayana Gowda (currently Minister of State for Youth Empowerment and Sports, Planning, Program Monitoring, and Statistics) were also named as people who supported the police in targeting Christians in two instances of hate crimes in Karwar (October 4) and Mandya (January 25),” according to the report.
While none of the two BJP legislators could be reached for comment, BJP spokesperson Ganesh Karnik refuted the claims. “The leaders listed in the article, particularly Sunil Kumar, are the ones pulling the BJP’s cadre together in Karnataka, and this is an attempt to smear their reputation.” The party has not engaged in any acts of violence, and its sole goal is to introduce legislation that prohibits forced conversions in the state. “The report is false,” Karnik stated.
Apart from the attacks and the presence of right-wing organisations, the report highlighted the Christian community’s greater issue of social boycott and dissemination. “What’s most concerning is the discrimination and social boycott that Christians have encountered from people who aren’t affiliated with these Hindutva organisations. In their communities, such as their neighbours, landowners, employers, small businesses like grocery stores, and even schools,” the research stated.