Bengaluru: Kanakapura, a small town in the outskirts of Bengaluru, on Monday witnessed a big protest organised by the RSS against the proposal to install a 114-foot statue of Jesus Christ.
Breathing fire, controversial RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakara Bhat dared the Christians to go ahead with the plan. Holding local Congress MLA DK Shivakumar directly responsible for the Jesus statue controversy, Bhat alleged that Congress was aiding “Christianisation” of the area by extending support to installation of a statue of Jesus Christ.
The Congress strong man and seven-time MLA Shivakumar dismissed the RSS protest as an attempt by a desperate group to divert the public attention from real issues like collapsing economy.
He even refused to acknowledge Bhat, saying he does not even know who he is.
But locals are worried about the recent developments to spoil communal harmony in their area, which has been the most peaceful for centuries. According to them, only a handful of locals had participated in the protest and most others were outsiders.
It all started with Shivakumar extending support to the installation of a tall statue of Jesus Christ atop a hillock called ‘Kapala Betta’ at Harobele in December last year.
The right-wing Hindu organisations led by the RSS swung into action, opposing it by claiming Shivakumar is indirectly helping the missionaries to convert local Hindus to Christianity.
The BJP government in the state ordered an immediate halting of the work and even ordered an inquiry.
Shocked by sudden protests, a Catholic delegation led by the Arch Bishop of Bengaluru, Dr Peter Machado, met Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa requesting his intervention. But keeping the sensitivity in mind, Yediyurappa gave no assurances.
Monday’s protests indicate a growing communal divide in the state.
Surprisingly, majority of Hindus in the area are not opposed to installation of the statue. According to them, Christians have been living there for centuries and there have not been any issues with them.
The local Christians claim that they have been living there for over 350 years and the “disputed” Kapala Betta has been a site of worship for them for over one hundred years.
The earliest record of Christian settlement in the area goes back to 1662 AD, they reveal. Harobele has over 3,500 Christians and almost all are born Christians. The village has produced over three dozen priests and over a hundred nuns, they claim.
“There has been no conversion in the area. Our population was about 1,000 in the 18th century. It has now gone up to about 3,500. Is it not natural?” they ask.
They dismiss RSS’ charges as baseless and aimed at creating trouble in a peaceful area.
Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, who once represented the same area in Lok Sabha, attacked the RSS and BJP for preventing the religious activities of Christians.
He said Christians had every right to build a Church or install a statue of Jesus Christ just like Hindus had the right to build a temple or install the statue of a god or goddess.
“The BJP-affiliated people have destroyed 19 churches and burnt two children alive in Orissa in the late 1990s. What more can you expect from them?” he said.
He maintained that India is a secular nation and will remain a secular nation forever.
Not so surprisingly, except a few Congress and JDS leaders, rest have maintained a radio silence over the ongoing controversy.
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