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Mangalore residents blame forcible conversions for violence
Vicky Nanjappa
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September 17, 2008 11:35 IST

The coastal town of Mangalore in Karnataka, which is known as the Garden City under Coconut Groves has been under fire since the past three days.

Incidents of violence, places of worship being desecrated and not to mention the damage to public property -- Mangalore has seen it all and has been on national headlines.

The issue here -- conversions as alleged by right-wing Hindu activists who went on a rampage on Sunday. Places of worship and churches were under attack. The following day, some Christians took out a protest against the incident and had to bear the wrath of the police when the protest turned violent.

Mangalore has never had a history of clashes between Christians and Hindus. Residents of Mangalore, who are obviously saddened by the fact that the peaceful co-existence between the Hindus and Christians who are 1,64,982 in number has been disrupted, however blame forcible conversion to be the cause. Not only the local residents, but even the Bajrang Dal and the Mangalore Diocesan say that the violence had broken out against forcible conversions.

The target of the Bajrang Dal is however not the church. They say that they have vented their anger against the members of the New Life Fellowship Trust, which had been indulging in forcible conversion and also distribution of seditious literature, a fact that the trust denies.

Alwyn Colaco, pastor of the full Gospel Church, told that he is very upset with the developments.

"The allegation that New Life is into forcible conversions is untrue. We are not into forcible conversions, but if people want to embrace another religion then what is wrong in that. If conversions were to be banned, then every reformer of a religion is an outlaw. People are coming to us because of our Gospel and the people want to test us because of the message that we spread. There are no inducements given for conversions," Colaco said.

Looking at the developments that have taken place in Mangalore since the past three days, it is evident that the Diocese too has come down heavily on forcible conversions. Colaco points out that the Catholic church has not come to their rescue because they are afraid.

"The Catholics have much at stake. They run several institutions and if they come to our defence then they risk their property being damaged. We completely understand what they feel and are not upset that they have disowned us," Colaco said.

The protests have stopped for now, but the big question is whether peace will remain regarding this issue in Mangalore.

Senior advocate Vikram Hegde said that this issue has been brewing in Mangalore for some time.

"Breakaway groups such as the Bajrang Dal, Shrirama Sena and others have been indulging in moral policing for quite some time now. Now they have taken on conversions. If the government acts against this then I do not see any reason for this issue to continue," Hegde said.

Colaco said they have been called by the government of Karnataka to sit across the table with both Hindu activists and the Catholics to sort out their differences.

"Why should we go there? We have no faith in this government and what justice can we expect from a government which supports the actions of the Sangh Parivar," Colaco said.

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