Hyderabad: On Saturday afternoon, a man with a machete stormed into a church in Belagavi, Karnataka, and chased down the priest in charge.
The man is seen on CCTV footage following the church’s in-charge, Father Francis D’souza, with a machete in his hand. When the priest notices him, he moves away. The armed intruder pursues Father D’souza for a little time before fleeing. It is also seen that the man is carrying a wire along with him, although it’s unclear why he carried it.
The event occurred just one day before the Assembly’s Winter Session in Belagavi. This year, the Assembly will consider a bill prohibiting religious conversions, which has been opposed by the opposition and Christian organisations.
Security has been deployed at the church following a police complaint about the incident on Sunday, and an investigation has begun.
According to an NDTV report, a senior police officer claimed “A security cover has been up around the church. We have the surveillance footage. The investigation is underway.”
Following a meeting with 30 Hindu religious leaders in September of this year, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai stated that the state would soon have a law prohibiting religious conversions and that the administration is looking at similar laws in other states to help shape the legislation.
The Opposition Congress has spoken out against the action. State party head D K Shivakumar has said that the bill is intended to target Christians and will stymie efforts to attract investment to the state.
The Archbishop of Bengaluru, Peter Machado, has written to Chief Minister Bommai, urging him not to support the legislation.
“The whole Christian Community in Karnataka rejects the proposed anti-conversion bill in unison and questions the need for such an exercise when sufficient laws and court instructions are in place to monitor any deviation from the current laws,” he said.
The Archbishop stated that enacting such legislation would violate people’ rights, particularly those of minority populations, citing Articles 25 and 26 of the constitution.
“The anti-conversion bill would become an instrument for extreme groups to seize the legislation and vitiate the environment with communal conflict in an otherwise peaceful state,” the Archbishop stated.
He also questioned the Karnataka government’s directive to undertake a survey of both official and non-official Christian missionaries, as well as the state’s institutions and organisations.
Past crime against minorities in Begavi district
Belgavi in the recent past has also witnessed crimes against minorities. On October 17, an unidentified mob thrashed a Hindu boy who was going to a park in Belgavi along with his female Muslim friend.
On October 16, a video has emerged on Twitter showcasing members of the Hindutva brigade dancing with swords in their hands to celebrate Ayudha pooja on the streets of Karnataka’s Belgavi. The display and lauding of potentially dangerous weapons proves to be a cause of concern as it could harm or instigate violence and as such carrying them in public is deemed illegal by the Arms Act of 1959.
On October 2, a 24-year-old Muslim man in Karnataka’s Belgavi district was beheaded and killed over an alleged love affair with a Hindu girl. The beheaded body with the legs cut off was found on railway tracks. He has been identified as Arbaz, and the perpetrators are believed to be from Rame Sena in Karnataka.