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Church in Mysore vandalised, looted

Incident at St Mary’s Church in Periyapatna, around 200km from Bangalore, came to light around 7pm on Tuesday
Representational image.
Representational image.
File Photo.

K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 29.12.22, 03:35 AM

A church near Mysore has been vandalised, an Infant Jesus statue smashed and three donation boxes have been stolen.

The incident at St Mary’s Church in Periyapatna, around 200km from Bangalore, came to light around 7pm on Tuesday when a parishioner went there to switch on the lights as the priest and the cook were away.


Police have not ruled out theft as a motive. But they are also treating it as a hate-driven crime for now since the Infant Jesus statue, a glass vase and six crystal candle stands that were part of the Christmas decorations have been flung to the floor and smashed to smithereens.

The police found that the culprits gained entry into the church by breaking open aside door as the main door was found intact. At least two of the donation boxes were stolen by cutting the iron chains used to fasten them to the wall, while the third one kept at the altar was not tethered.

Preliminary investigations suggest two or three persons were involved in the crime.

Mysore district additional superintendent of police B.N.Nandini who visited the spot told reporters that it “prima facie” looked like a theft since the collection boxes were stolen. “It prima facie looks like a theft. But we are looking at it from all angles.”

The Periyapatna police station registered an FIR under IPC Sections 295A (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings) and380 (theft).

A parishioner, different from the one who detected the incident, told The Telegraph on Wednesday that the obvious motive was hate. “If they wanted to just steal the donation boxes, they would have left the holy articles,” said the woman who declined to be named.

The incident, according to her, happened on Tuesday afternoon when the parish priest was in Mysore, 65kmaway, and his cook was on leave for three days on account of Christmas. “There was no one in the church during the day. We feel the break-in happened in the afternoon,” she said.

She said the police officers at the local station had promised a thorough investigation.“So far, no fingerprints could be retrieved, and the police dog couldn’t find any lead either. Unfortunately, the church premises have no security cameras,” the parishioner said.

The police are scouring security camera footage in the neighbourhood.

A senior church functionary based in Bangalore also felt it was a clear case of targeted attack on the church.“This is a clear case of yet another hate-fuelled attack on a church. Many of us fear there would be more such attacks on churches in the run-up to the Assembly elections when the ruling dispensation would try to capitalise on communal passions,” said the official who declined to be named.

Although Karnataka has a long history of hate campaigns and attacks on churches, the frequency of these incidents witnessed a sharp increase after BJP leader Basavaraj Bommai replaced B.S. Yediyurappa as chief minister in July 2021.

The Opposition Congress and Janata Dal Secular had accused Bommai of turning a blind eye to these incidents.

The hate attacks on churches prompted the state government to bring an ordinance against religious conversions in May 2022.

It was followed by the legislature passing the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Act in September.

Over a dozen Christians have since been arrested for alleged proselytisation by force or allurement. But no such action has been taken on Sangh parivar elements who have disturbed prayers and barged into churches alleging illegal conversions.

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