India: Karnataka: Protestants targeted by BJP and police

Delhi, India – In the southwestern Indian state of Karnataka, the crackdown against Christian Churches continues as police tries to limit freedom of worship. In addition to Pentecostal Churches in the District of Chikmagalur, Christian prayer centres in Mangalore have been asked to register with police, and present detailed reports on their funding and religious activities. Sajan K George, president of Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), slams the state government, run by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for tolerating such intimidation by police against an already “fragile Christian community”.

On 17 August, Rev Babu, from the Pentecostal Jesus Comes Full Gospel Church in Kadur, District of Chikmagalur, received a five-part request in order to be allowed to continue operating as a place of worship. It included: trust name and registration number; name, address and phone numbers of Church administrators; details about foreign contributions received and bank account details; purpose for which expenditure were incurred out of foreign contribution received; and detailed statement of income and expenditures.

The request is a blatant violation of the rules of a secular state, and is unjustified in terms of the history of the local Christian community, which has never caused any problem. In Kadur, there are ten churches, four chapels and six private places of worship, each with 25 to 40 members. In ten years, not a single incident has been recorded and all religious functions have been peaceful.

In Karnataka, Sajan K George told AsiaNews, what is happening is similar to what occurred in “another BJP-controlled state, Madhya Pradesh”, where another anti-Christian campaign was launched in March, but was soon abandoned “because of huge street protests”.

It is clear though that targeting and profiling a minority is a “blatant violation of the constitution and the principles of a free and fair democracy,” George said.

Under the ruse of protection, police in the Karnataka city of Mangalore sought to collect information about places of worship, calling on 75 local Christian clergymen (but no Catholic) to provide information about their activities.

For the GCIC president, Bhopal police did the same thing in March, when it issued instructions to its agents to collect “information about Christian activities”, the “number of missionaries” and “the total amount of aid received”. They were eventually dropped but only because of “widespread protests by the faithful”.