“We had been praying at this very spot for about 20 years when the (then Congress-led) state government officially gave us the land to us six years ago for free. It is wrong to say we were converting people. We cater only to Catholic families and others who might come here to pray.”
In a shocking move, civic authorities in Devanahalli, a small town located about 50 kilometers from Bengaluru, have demolished a 12-foot statue of Christ and 14 crosses located at a place of worship used by members of the Christian community. The St Joseph’s church, a Catholic Center and a cemetery are located on a 4-acre plot of land.
On February 23, members of the Kannada Rakshan Vedike (KRV) and Bajrang Dal held protests at the site alleging that the priests were converting locals. They also alleged that the church had come up on the plot illegally.
But church authorities deny both allegations. Fr Mathew Kottayil, the priest, told The Telegraph, “We had been praying at this very spot for about 20 years when the (then Congress-led) state government officially gave us the land to us six years ago for free. It is wrong to say we were converting people. We cater only to Catholic families and others who might come here to pray.”
Speaking about the demolition, Fr Kottayil said, “They came unannounced and just broke everything that we have built slowly over the years.” The 14 crosses are called “Stations of the Cross” that signify certain events that took place when Jesus was made to carry the giant cross to Mount Calvary where he was crucified.
In a written statement, Archbishop of Bangalore, Peter Machado said, “It is a blow to communal harmony of the peoples in our villages and also violation of the religious freedom guaranteed to us by the Indian Constitution. If there is any instance of forceful conversion, let the government investigate and take action. But it will not bring credit to the government and to the local authorities to unnecessarily interfere in the religious tenets and practices of Christians by yielding to the pressure of some groups.”
This isn’t the first time Hindutva supremacists have flexed muscle against the small Christian community in Karnataka. In January, right-wing organisations led by Hindu Jagaran Vedike marched to protest the Karnataka government’s decision to allot land for the construction of a 114-foot statue at Kapalbetta in Kanakpura taluka of Ramanagara district. The protesters chanted ‘Jai Sriram’ and ‘Rakta Kottevu, Kapalabetta kodalla’ (We will give our blood, but not Kapalabetta)’ during the march. The Sangh parivar also issued an ultimatum to the state government to withdraw the land grant. Interestingly, the village is home to 3,500 Christian families. Local Christians claim this has been their home for over 350 years, with earliest Christian settlements dating back to 1662.