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Church Found Vandalised in Karnataka Amid Row Over Anti-Conversion Bill

The incident reportedly occurred at the 160-year-old St Joseph's chapel, and an FIR has been lodged in the case.

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Amid a row over the anti-conversion bill that has been tabled in the Karnataka Assembly, pending discussion, a chapel has been vandalised in the state's Chikkaballapur, with a grotto of St Anthony left broken.

The incident reportedly occurred at the 160-year-old St Joseph's chapel in Susaipalya and an FIR has been lodged in the case.

The incident reportedly occurred at the 160-year-old St Joseph's chapel, and an FIR has been lodged in the case.

The priest of the chapel told NDTV that the incident appeared to have occurred around 5.30 am on Thursday morning and the vandalism was spotted by a parishioner at 5.40 am. It was reported immediately to the police by Father Joseph, the priest.

A slew of attacks on churches and the Christian community have been documented in the state prior to the start of the Karnataka Assembly Winter Session, where the anti-conversion Bill has been tabled.

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The attacks are often carried out by Hindu right-wing outfits on mere suspicion of "forced religious conversions". As per a fact-finding report documented by the United Christians Forum, Association for Protection of Civil Rights and United Against Hate, six attacks on Christian establishments have been documented between October and December.

Most recently, a man was caught on CCTV camera, entering church premises in Belagavi with a machete and chasing the church-in-charge.

What is the Controversial Bill?

The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021, is supposed to prevent “unlawful conversion from one religion to another by misrepresentation, force, undue influence, coercion, allurement or by any fraudulent means or marriage.”

However, while the legal validity of the ‘freedom of religion’ bill remains largely questionable, the proposed bill has come under fire by Opposition members, who have termed it "draconian."

The bill, which was granted the state Cabinet's approval on Monday, 20 December, seeks to prohibit conversion from one religion to another by means that it categorises as fraudulent.

It adds that any aggrieved person, parents, brother, sister or any other person related by blood, marriage or adoption can file a First Information Report (FIR) against such an act.

The bill provides for the imposition of stringent punishment for violators of the anti-conversion law, with different sentences if the person who converts belongs to the general category and if they belong to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.

On Wednesday, around 40 human rights organisations and several members of the Christian community held a protest in Bengaluru on against the contentious Bill.

The broad coalition, through speeches, music and constitutional slogans, demanded that the bill be withdrawn as the Karnataka government is trampling upon the constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of religion, privacy and dignity.

(With inputs from NDTV.)

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