Home ministry official to visit Mangalore

Home ministry official to visit Mangalore

New Delhi: Less than a week after the Union government issued a warning, it has decided to escalate its intervention in Karnataka following continued reports of violence against Christians.

The government is sending a senior home ministry official to review with local officials the developments in Mangalore, seat of the ongoing violence against Christians in the southern part of the state. Mahendra Kumwat, special secretary of internal security, is expected to leave for the state on Tuesday.

Karnataka police said two more churches in Mangalore were attacked by unidentified people on Monday. In the past one week, more than 20 churches have been desecrated, allegedly by the Hindu hardline group Bajrang Dal, which says it is protesting forced conversions, a charge denied by Christian leaders.

The home ministry’s latest initiative, coming as it does in the backdrop of the warning issued on 18 September, shows the government is keen to take “proactive steps" to control violence, said an official, who did not wish to be identified.

Using the authority vested in Article 355 of the Constitution that mandates the Centre to ensure that states are taking care of their constitutional responsibilities, the home ministry had sent directives to Karnataka and Orissa, as both states had recently seen a series of attacks against Christians.

“The directive to Karnataka said that the state government had failed in its fundamental duty to protect the minorities and their properties," the official said, adding the ministry has also sent advisories to Madhya Pradesh and Kerala.

The government’s move did not go well within opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP. “Karnataka has a duly and constitutionally elected government. The state government is taking adequate steps to control the situation. But the Central government is trying to fish in troubled waters," said Ananth Kumar, BJP member of parliament from Bangalore south. “It is...wrong and unconstitutional."

But Congress spokesman Salman Khurshid said it was constitutional. “It is the Centre’s duty to see that the state was following the advisories. If Karnataka is taking care of its constitutional responsibilities, why would they complain about such a move?"

Mint had reported on 12 September that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked the home ministry to warn Orissa against the violence. While Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are ruled by the BJP, Orissa is ruled by a Biju Janata Dal-BJP coalition and Kerala has a Left Democratic Front government in power.