From burning religious books belonging to the Christian community to barging inside churches and assaulting its members, a spate of attacks on the religious minority in Karnataka has been reported since the anti-conversion bill became a hot topic of discussion in the cabinet this September. But when asked by NDTV if the ruling BJP had data or evidence to back their claim of growing illegal conversions in the state, the party had few answers.
Despite rising attacks against Christians, and objections to the anti-conversion bill raised by the community, the Karnataka government is pushing ahead with its plans, justifying it on grounds that illegal conversions are on the rise.
But when NDTV asked a senior BJP leader that if there was hard evidence to back these claims, he said “Data is not necessary,” and that “all” conversions are illegal.
“Data is not necessary because it’s evident. It is very evident from the increase of the Christian population from 0.5 per cent to 3 per cent. All conversions as far as BJP are concerned are illegal. All are illegal,” the BJP’s Vaman Acharya said.
When NDTV asked about the figures for his claim that the Christian population had increased from 0.5 per cent to 3 per cent, he claimed it was from the 2011 Census, which is the last available census. However, according to the 2011 census data, Karnataka’s Christian population was 1.87 per cent – a drop compared to the 2001 census, where it was 1.91 per cent.
Dr Giridhar Upadhayay, the official spokesperson of the BJP in the state, was equally vague when asked for evidence.
“The government has ordered a survey on churches which are registered and unregistered, and illegal churches. Because many of the houses have been converted into prayer halls where the people are lured into, and fear is brought into their mind… and all such things are happening,” he said.
The opposition has said the heightened focus on illegal conversions is a political gimmick.
“For the political gain, the government is bringing anti-conversion law. If the issue is serious, let them bring a law in the parliament. This is happening only in states, only to politicise the issue. Attacks on minority communities are increasing,” said state Congress chief DK Shivakumar.
While Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai has said the anti-conversion bill will be taken up for discussion in the winter session of the assembly, sporadic protests have erupted in the city of Bengaluru. A day after a human chain protest against the bill, the people’s union for civil liberties on Tuesday released a report that documented nearly 39 incidents of hate crimes by Hindutva groups.
At least seven attacks against Christians have taken place after September by Hindu vigilantes who have talked up forcible conversions.
When NDTV spoke to ST Ramesh, former police chief of Karnataka, on why the police were seen as little more than spectators to the attacks, he said that the cops in the state “were breaching the law of the land and the constitution”.
“The police always works at political dispensation which cannot be wished away. The wave of anti-Christian violence and vandalism witnessed in Karnataka recently seems it has the tacit support of the government. Normally, police would be expected to register suo moto cases and carry out investigation impartially. It is clear they have not been doing that owing to some pressure,” Mr Ramesh said.