Retired judge to probe Karnataka Church attacks

September 19th, 2008 - 5:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyBangalore, Sep 19 (IANS) Karnataka’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, facing severe criticism over recent attacks on Christian shrines and religious symbols in several parts of the state, Friday announced a probe into these incidents by a retired judge of the high court.The probe will also cover violence that erupted, mainly in the coastal city of Mangalore, about 350 km from here, on Monday, a day after around 10 churches and prayer halls were attacked in three districts - Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Chikmagalur.

Karnataka’s decision came within hours of the central government in New Delhi warning the state that it may invoke a constitutional provision, Article 355, to take over administration of the troubled areas if violence against minorities continues.

On Thursday, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa had rejected opposition demand for a probe by a sitting judge of the high court and directed the state Corps of Detectives to conduct the enquiry and submit a report within two months.

However, speaking at a function Friday in the west coast district of Uttara Kannada adjoing Dakshina Kannada, Yeddyurappa said his government had decided on a probe by a retired high court judge.

“The details (like the judge’s name, terms of reference, timeframe for the probe) are being worked out,” V.P. Baligar, principal secretary to the chief minister, told IANS.

The attacks in the three districts and the violence in Mangalore has damaged property worth Rs.1.6 million, according to state Home Minister V.S. Acharya.

Over 70 people, 45 of them policemen, were injured and around 170 people have been detained, more than 50 of them for attacking the places of worship.

Right-wing Hindus say the attacks were a fallout of distribution of literature allegedly insulting Hindu gods and asking people to convert to Christianity. They charge that a Christian sect, New Life Fellowship, had distributed this literature.

However, the sect, which manages around 45 churches and prayer halls in the state, 15 of them in coastal Karnataka, has denied the charges. It also claims that it is not forcing or inducing anyone to convert.

Yeddyurappa and state BJP leaders assert that large-scale conversion is on in Karnataka, particularly in coastal areas and New Life Fellowship is involved in it.

The state government is collecting information on the sect’s activities and source of funds, officials stated.

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