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The Rediff Interview/Karnataka Law Minister Suresh Kumar

'We have assured Christians of safety'

September 25, 2008

Karnataka has been in turmoil in the last fortnight since activists of the Bajrang Dal went on the rampage protesting forcible conversions and attacking churches and prayer halls across the state. The counter-protests by the Christian community in Mangalore turned ugly which led to the arrest of several persons.

The Union government claimed it was concerned about the situation. First it issued an advisory under Article 355 of the Constitution and then it sent a central team to report on the situation.

'Vested interests are hitting back at Christians'

State Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Kumar is a busy man. He says action has been taken where necessary. However, he is quick to add that the Union government is politicising the issue and there was no need for the central team to make adverse remarks against the state government. He spoke to rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa about the situation in Karnataka, the visit by the central team and the remarks made by the Archbishop of Bengaluru [Images].

Karnataka has not seen violence of this scale against Christians before. How does your government feel about it?

We have always maintained that we are upset with the kind of incidents Karnataka has witnessed in the past few days. The government has condemned the attacks. However, it was unfair to blame the government as we have acted upon the issue and taken necessary steps. We have instituted a judicial inquiry and have also announced the terms and references. The law will be upheld at any cost.

We don't blame all Christians: Bajrang Dal leader

The Union government, however, thought that the state had not acted and decided to issue an advisory. Moreover, a central team too was sent down to assess the situation.

We have no grievance against the visit of the central team to Karnataka. In fact I respect them. But I would like to add here that their comments that the state has failed to maintain law and order is totally unwarranted. They were here as observers and their duty was to collect information. Passing comments was definitely not their job. These people have become judges when their job was not to give their opinion in public. They were required to submit a report.

What difference does it make? They may say the same things in their report too.

When a judicial inquiry that has been set up, the matter becomes sub-judice. In my view it seems like the central team is prejudiced in their view.

Church attacks: Mangalore in turmoil

What do you think the role of the Union government should have been in this entire episode?

Firstly, understand that this is a federal setup. The state and the Union government are meant to work together. When there is a problem in a state, it is the duty of the Union government to help us and not bully the state.

Are you satisfied with the way the security situation in the state?

Yes, I am. There have been no incidents in the past three days. That is an indication that law and order is under control.

The media reported that the archbishop of Bengaluru snubbed Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa. What are your comments on that incident?

Well, I do not know how you will interpret this. But all I want to say that the archbishop's behaviour in front of the cameras was very different compared to the way he acted indoors.

Do you think the Christian community trusts your government?

Yes, I believe that. We have been meeting with various Christian representatives over the past few days. We have assured them of safety.


The Rediff Interviews

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