The Sree Ram Sena, which echoes the Sangh parivar’s views, has alleged that hundreds of “illegal” churches and mosques are functioning in Karnataka, adding that its workers are gathering details for submission to the authorities.
Sree Ram Sena chief Pramod Muthalik made the allegation just when the state governor gave his nod to a contentious anti-conversion ordinance that has now become law.
Muthalik said Sena workers “are preparing a full list of the illegal churches and mosques operating from houses and such other buildings. These places are being used for religious conversions”.
He said an estimated 500 such illegal places of worship had come up in the state over the years, although he could not produce any documentary evidence to substantiate his claim.
An organisation that wields considerable clout in the southern districts, especially coastal Karnataka, the Sree Ram Sena had recently spearheaded a vitriolic campaign against mosques using loudspeakers for azaan. Muthalik had led a protest on May 9 by singing bhajans and chanting Hanuman Chalisa at a temple in Mysore located close to a mosque.
The state government had subsequently issued a circular, making a Supreme Court order on decibel levels mandatory at all establishments, including places of worship, across the state. The Muslim community has readily agreed to control the volume of loudspeakers, although a majority of the 12,000 mosques in the state were already using decibel-level controllers.
The latest issue raked up by the Sree Ram Sena coincided with the notification of the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2022, on Tuesday. Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot gave his assent to the ordinance a day after a church delegation met him and appealed against giving his nod.
The Sena allegation comes in the wake of it joining hands with the little-known Narendra Modi Vichar Manch in demanding permission to pray at Mazjid-e-Ala in Srirangapatna in Mandya district, around 130km from here, alleging that it stands on the ruins of a Hanuman temple.
The Narendra Modi Vichar March recently approached the Mandya district administration to permit them to pray at the mosque, which is currently a heritage site managed by Archeological Survey of India. Only a madrasa now functions from the mosque complex.
The mosque is believed to have been constructed in 1728 during the reign of Tipu Sultan.
The secretary of the Narendra Modi Vichar Manch, C.T. Manjunath, claimed documentary evidence to prove the contention that a Hanuman temple once stood where the mosque had been built. “Tipu Sultan had written to the ruler of Persia that a temple existed there before the mosque was built. We want the authorities to let us pray there,” he said.
But state home minister Araga Jnanendra warned of stringent action if anyone dared to take law into their hands. “Strict action will be taken if anyone challenges law and order,” he said.
Archbishop of Bangalore Peter Machado on Wednesday said the Christian community felt betrayed since its sentiments were not taken into consideration while notifying the anti-conversion ordinance.
“The Christian community feels betrayed since its sentiments are not taken note of and its selfless services in the fields of education, healthcare and other social areas for the welfare of all communities are not taken into consideration,” Machado said in a statement.
“For the past couple of months, we had repeatedly drawn the attention of the state government, the general public that this bill is irrelevant and malicious and it is aimed only at dividing the Christians from other religious minorities,” he said.