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BJP ties attacks to conversion

New Delhi/ Bangalore, Sept. 16: Karnataka’s BJP chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Ashok Singhal today appeared to justify the recent attacks on Christians by linking them to conversions.

“Conversion is itself a form of violence” and would not be tolerated, Singhal said when asked why the VHP was creating communal unrest.

“Let the hundreds of crores that come from outside exclusively for the purpose of conversion stop and we will ensure peace in the society,” he added.

As if on cue, Yeddyurappa said the finances of Christian groups accused of conversion will be probed.

On Sunday, 15 churches were attacked in Mangalore and two coastal Karnataka districts allegedly by Bajrang Dal supporters.

The chief minister today appeared to justify the attacks, saying the prayer halls that were damaged belonged to groups indulging in conversions. “The Constitution does not allow forced conversion,” Yeddyurappa said.

BJP-ruled Karnataka is the second state, after Orissa, where Christians have come under attack in the past month. In Orissa, the BJP is the junior partner of the ruling Biju Janata Dal.

Sunday’s raids had sparked street clashes yesterday but Yeddyurappa described the situation as peaceful.

He said bank accounts of groups carrying out conversions would be scrutinised and their foreign funding patterns watched closely.

“The state DGP will conduct an investigation soon,” the chief minister said.

Yeddyurappa rejected demands for a judicial inquiry into the church attacks and gave the Bajrang Dal a clean chit, a day after its members had gloated about having targeted only Pentacostal missions and spared Catholic churches.

In Delhi, the BJP’s central leadership tried to explain the violence in the two states. Party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad objected to one Christian group distributing “abusive pamphlets” about Hindu gods in Karnataka.

He also denied that the clashes in Orissa were between Hindus and Christians, saying tribals who had embraced Christianity were seeking reservation benefits and Hindu tribals were resisting it.

The VHP distributed a pamphlet at a news conference alleging that churches were using “deceit, allurement, coercion and even terror” to convert Hindus.

On August 25, a Christian woman employee was charred to death as suspected VHP activists set a missionary school hostel on fire in Orissa — an incident that sparked communal violence in the state.

Singhal, however, saw in the Orissa backlash a Hindu revolt against 400 years of oppression and evil designs of Christian missionaries.

Asked why his outfit’s name always cropped up after such incidents, Singhal said: “It is because the VHP has raised credible resistance against conversion in the entire country.”

The Hindutva hawk ultimately lost his cool when journalists continued to grill him on the church attacks. Why were questions not raised about alleged temple demolitions in Orissa, the VHP chief asked.

Karnataka police said 170 people had been taken into custody so far but didn’t specify whether the arrests were for yesterday’s street clashes, most of which involved Christian groups, or for the attacks on the prayer houses.

Yeddyurappa asserted those who broke the law would be dealt with sternly and the culprits brought to book. Again, it was not clear if he meant the raiders or protesters.

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