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Bishops issue Karnataka demands

Prelates call on chief minister to drop criminal charges against 150 Christian youths

Philip Mathew, Bangalore

October 31, 2011

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Karnataka Chief Minister says he will take steps to have charges brought against 150 Christian youths following anti-Christian violence in 2008 dropped. D V Sadananda Gowda made the pledge to 13 of the state’s Catholic bishops who demanded the “immediate withdrawal” of the charges at a meeting with them on Friday. The bishops, led by Archbishop Bernard Moras of Bangalore, also submitted a letter alleging that the state had given “protection and support” to the real culprits, while victimizing “helpless and innocent Christians.” Bishop Henry D’Souza of Bellary said today that the chief minister’s assurance “was a good step’’ and that they will get a positive outcome within the week. The bishops also demanded a probe by India’s top investigating agency into the attacks “to find the truth, to punish the culprits and to instill confidence’’ in the Christian community. The southern Indian state witnessed 24 attacks on Church institutions and Christians in September 2008. Since then, around 300 cases of anti-Christian violence have been recorded. The bishops’ letter noted that in 2008, churches were “systematically and simultaneously subjected to well-planned vandalism and attacks.” They also urged the government to reject a report by a government appointed commission that exonerated Hindu extremists and police after the violence. The Justice B. K. Somasekhara commission in its 1,000-page report said “no true Hindu” had a role in the attacks. The bishops said the commission failed to identify the real perpetrators and called on the government to provide adequate compensation to victims and churches and take steps to stop further attacks on Christians. They also asked the government to allow the construction of prayer halls, churches and other related institutions and ensure that prayer meetings and services can be held without hindrance.
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