There is a limit to religious freedom'
Karnataka Home Minister Dr VS Acharya makes a poor defence to SANJANA, arguing that the violence was anti-conversion
Attacks on Christians and churches have been reported from Udupi, Mangalore, Chikmaglur, Davangere, and Chikballapur — around 25 incidents across Karnataka since August. Is there a law and order problem in the state?
The attacks were not against the entire Christian community. They took place only against certain groups such as New Life, Seventh Day Adventists, etc. They were distributing provocative material, exploiting people's poverty and forcing them to convert to Christianity. These forcible conversions were being funded by foreign hands, their influence on our people is clearly visible.
Are you justifying these attacks?
There are some people who chalked out a programme to destroy all those who indulge in forcible conversions. But the problem did not begin with them. It began when a news channel repeatedly telecast footage of an image of Jesus Christ being vandalised. We condemn all acts of violence. The Chief Minister has already announced that strict action will be taken against those who continue to follow such programmes. We will not allow anybody to indulge in violence.
What has the government done to control the situation?
The Chief Minister and I have toured the area. High-level police officials were also with us. More than 150 people have been arrested. This includes Christians involved in retaliatory attacks.
How many Christians and Bajrang Dal activists have been arrested?
About 23 Christians and 60 to 70 Bajrang Dal activists. About 300 people were detained initially but we have filed cases against only 153 people. I must say that things are calm now and normalcy has returned much earlier than expected.
Bajrang Dal State President Mahendra Kumar warned Christians against protesting against these attacks. He also said: "Christians should not feel hurt by the attacks. If they do, we will conclude that they support the kind of institutions that have been involved in conversion of Hindus to Christianity. Then, we will be left with no option but to take action." Will you take action against him?
I have already shared with you what the Chief Minister has said.
Will you arrest Kumar? Pramod Muthalik, Rashtriya Hindustan Sena chief, announced that it is training 700 suicide bombers.
If they have made such statements, we will take action. We will not tolerate acts of violence.
These have been reported in the press. Yet both Districtin- charge minister Krishna Palemar and you say that you will look into the matter. Are these leaders being let off?
No, we will take appropriate action against them. We will book cases against them if necessary.
What proof does the government have that forced conversions are taking place?
We support all religions. I am all for religious freedom but there is a limit. That limit is mentioned in the Constitution too, please go back and refer to it. When there is undue pressure, unwarranted enticement, people being converted against their will, there is bound to be a reaction from those whose sentiments are hurt. But we have instructed everybody to file police complaints and not take the law into their hands. There is nothing more to say.