The spate of attacks on Christians and churches continues in the BJP-ruled states of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Coastal districts of Mangalore, Dakshina Kannada, Chikmagalur and Udupi are tense after 14 churches were attacked on Sunday, allegedly by the activists of Hindu outfit Bajrang Dal.
On Wednesday, a mob attacked a church and statue of St Mary in Kolar in south Karnataka, taking the number of attacks to 19 in the past one month. Security has been stepped up following the incident. Police say the situation is tense but under control.
Last month Orissa too witnessed a similar flare up. Christians were attacked in the Kandhamal district and 24 people died in the communal clashes that followed.
As the Government considers bringing in tougher measures to deal with terror, CNN-IBN debates if Hindu outfits like Bajrang Dal could be compared with Islamist terror groups like the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
To debate the controversial issue on Face the Nation were the President of Indian Christian Voice, Dr Abraham Mathai; and BJP leader Gopal Prasad Sinha.
Abraham Mathai kickstarted the debate and strongly argued the Bajrang Dal was terrorising minorities in the state. Mathai and also hinted at state complicity.
"The state is talking about SIMI activists being in hiding and here we have the Bajrang Dal people openly admitting to having done this. How can you differentiate between the two? Should SIMI be banned just because they are Muslims?" he asked.
Mathai quoted incidents of Bajrang Dal activists being caught in the act. "In Nanded, they were caught making bombs and even confessed to having dressed as Muslims," he alleged.
But Gopal Prasad Sinha lashed back and said it was unfair to compare Bajrang Dal with SIMI. "It's a well-established fact that SIMI is an anti-national force, is part of Lashkar-e-Toiba, al-Qaeda and is responsible for blasts across the country," he said.
Sinha also defended Bajrang Dal's action as a "reaction to a planned mischief to convert people in Karnataka".
"I don't support the violence of Bajrang Dal but how do we react to these things," he asked arguing while Bajrang Dal had an ideology, SIMI was destroying the idea of India.
"SIMI is an international force, a part of an international terror group," he said.
Mathai retorted and said SIMI and Bajrang Dal shared the same underlying ideology.
"Bajrang Dal activists have killed 50 Indians in Orissa — they haven't killed Pakistanis, Bangaladeshis or others. Is that not anti-national? Just because they are from a majority community and have the backing of a political party, should they be spared?" he asked.
But the Bajrang Dal has also been accused of distributing tridents, bringing down the Babri Masjid and has been compared with the Nazis.
In fact, senior BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee said he was ashamed of the group's activities. However, Sinha dismissed these arguments as exaggerated public reaction.
As regards forcible conversions, Mathai argued there has been no conviction despite there being the draconian anti-conversion laws in place in five states.
"Because they have failed, they are trying miserably hard," Mathai said, adding, if conversions gave someone respect and dignity, they were not wrong.
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