NEW DELHI: While wooing supposedly harassed Christians from neighbouring countries with offers of citizenship, India’s rightwing rulers staged a massive rally against a proposed statue of Jesus Christ in the BJP-ruled Karnataka state on Monday.
In West Bengal, the state chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party, meanwhile, said opponents of the new citizenship law were killed like dogs in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly destroying government property.
“Bengal is not Uttar Pradesh,” retorted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Reports said hundreds of workers and volunteers of the BJP, Hindu Jagran Vedike (HJV), Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) took out a rally on Monday in protest against the proposed installation of a 114-foot tall statue of Jesus Christ at Kapala Betta in Karnataka’s Kanakapura which Congress strongman D K Shivakumar represents in the state assembly.
The BJP, RSS and HJV workers say that they will not allow the statue at Kapala Hills as the place has an ancient association with Munieshwara, a form of Lord Shiva. They have questioned how Shivakumar acquired the 10 acres of land which he ‘donated’ for the installation of the statue of Christ.
Earlier, Karnataka’s revenue minister R Ashoka had said a probe was underway on how ‘gomala’ (village pasture land) of the government was transferred at a pittance by the previous administration to Shivakumar and his brother who in turn donated it for the construction of the statue.
Shivakumar was dismissive of the protest by the right wing and claimed that the idea to erect the statue was that of local Christians and insisted that the land deal was completely legal. “Let them (BJP, RSS) come, shout and go. We are not bothered. Being the local MLA my job is to help all constituents and Christians have been worshipping there for nearly 400 years,” he told the media.
RSS leader Kalladaka Prabhakar Bhat who spoke at the rally hit out at Shivakumar and said under no circumstance would they allow conversion activities nor construction of a Christ statue on the Kapala hills. “If at all if a statue needs to be built let it be that of Tilak or even Gandhi or thousands of saints of India.”
Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader Deve Gowda came out in support of Shivakumar. “This country belongs to all. Ambedkar wrote law which says we should protect all religions. BJP should have no expectations from me.
“Whatever D K Shivakumar is trying to do, there is no fault in that. They might have taken a decision to build a statue of Jesus on top of a hill, we don’t have any objection to it. Why are people from Mangalore and Bangalore going to protest in Kanakapura?” he told reporters in Bengaluru.
Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2020