2008 Attacks On Christians in Southern Karnataka

The 2008 attacks on Christians in southern Karnataka refer to the wave of attacks directed against Christian churches and prayer halls in the Indian city of Mangalore and the surrounding area of southern Karnataka in September and October 2008 by Hindu nationalist organisations, Bajrang Dal and the Sri Ram Sena. The attacks were widely perceived by Christians in southern Karnataka to be punishment from right-wing Hindu nationalist organisations because they had been outspoken about Christian persecution in Orissa, and also because the New Life Fellowship Trust (NLFT), a non-denominational Christian Church, was alleged by Bajrang Dal to be responsible for forced conversions of Hindus to Christianity.

Several isolated incidents against Christians were reported from 17 August onwards, and on 29 August some 45,000 institutions across India participated in a "prayer for peace and communal harmony" in response to the ongoing anti-Christian violence in Orissa. St. Aloysius College, a Jesuit institution in Mangalore, and some other 2000 Christian schools in Karnataka went on strike for varying periods between 29 August and the 5 September prior to the attacks, protesting against the events in Orissa, in defiance of the orders of the government who stated that it was to be a regular work day. This led to government denouncement of the Christian institutions in the state for disobeying orders and led to a Bajrang Dal demonstration outside the St. Aloysius College, two weeks prior to the main attacks. The attacks began on 14 September, when a group of youths from the Bajrang Dal went inside the chapel of Adoration Monastery of the Sisters of St-Clare near the Milagres Church in Hampankatta and desecrated it. Some 20 churches or prayer halls, including Catholic and Protestant churches and temples belonging to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other evangelical sects, and colleges were damaged in towns and villages in the Mangalore taluk and other parts of Dakshina Kannada district, Udupi district and Chikkamagaluru district. A few Christian institutions were later attacked in Bangalore and Kasaragod district. Out of frustration and anger, the Christian community responded to the attacks within hours and began protesting. In Karkala, the Catholics of Karkala deanery staged a protest on 15 September and organised a 3 kilometre silent protest march. The protestors blocked arterial city roads in their masses, especially in places such as Hampankatta, Kulshekar, Bejai, Derebail and Thokottu and rang bells in almost all the churches of Mangalore, calling parishioners to their churches. The protests led to strong police suppression with lathi charges and tear gas, making around 150 arrests and injuring 30 to 40 people. The incident marked the first time that Catholics had ever resorted to violence in Mangalore when provoked. Between 15 September and 10 October, a new wave of anti-minority attacks began against Christian communities in the Indian states of Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, New Delhi, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand, as well as Muslim communities in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

The September 2008 attacks had political significance, given that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Karnataka state government, led by B. S. Yeddyurappa, were also accused of involvement and backing the anti-Christian campaigns and that the police were reported to have had knowledge of the imminent attacks but failed to prevent them. The police were criticised for their reaction to the protests and a report by a committee of human rights activists set up in the aftermath to examine the causes of the attacks claimed that they had used the event as a pretext to assault the community, rather than defend it. Justice B. K. Somasekhara of Karnataka, however, concluded that the police and government helped maintain order and were not responsible for the attacks. In response to the alleged forcible conversions of involvement, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) gave a three-month deadline for New Life Fellowship Trust (NLFT) to stop all conversion activities in Mangalore. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Mangalore declared that it would distance itself from the New Life Fellowship Trust.

In February 2011, retired Justice M. F. Saldanha, formerly of the Bombay High Court, was outspoken against the protests and published a report in which he described the attacks as "state-sponsored terrorism" and that the attacks were part of "communal forces" at work attacking Christian institutions on the coastal belt of India. The report and continued denial by the state government of being implicated in the attacks led to more than 100,000 Christians representing some 45 Christian denominations and secular organisations leading a silent march in Mangalore on 21 February. Following the publications of the reports and subsequent protests, the government of Karnataka announced that it would drop 338 cases against Christians who had protested in the attack, and in December 2011 a further 23 cases against Christians were dropped.

Read more about 2008 Attacks On Christians In Southern Karnataka:  Background and Cause, Attacks, Investigations, 2011 Protest, Footnotes, See Also

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2008 Attacks On Christians In Southern Karnataka - See Also
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