The removal of a statue of Jesus Christ from a hill in Devanahalli taluk of Karnataka has hurt the Christian community. The Bengaluru Archbishop has described it as a desecration. The focus of the growing controversy now is whether it was it done for legal reasons - or mainly because of complaints from right-wing groups.
Many in the Christian community were distressed and wondered why a statue of Jesus Christ and other stations of the cross were removed from Devanahalli. The government official who supervised this operation, S Ajith Kumar Rai, told NDTV, "The land was allotted for a burial ground. Not for any particular community. Not for Christians or any community. There are many issues over there and other community people raised the issue that they are putting the statue. It became an issue on channels and the press. It is a false statement to say it was allotted for a Christian graveyard."
When NDTV asked about the Christian community and the archbishop expressing how upset they were by developments, he denied any discrimination. The tahsildar said, "We have removed temples also. We are following guidelines. We have removed Anjaneya temples. We are planning to remove more temples also."
But this is what an officebearer of a right-wing group told NDTV. Keshavmurthy, who is state secretary of the HIndu Jagaran Vedike, said, "We welcome the stopping of Christian missionary activities and the removal of Jesus Christ statues by the district officials with the help of the police."
The main reason for the removal of the statue was a statement made 10 days ago by the Hindu Jagaran Vedike saying we would protest from March 28 if it was not done by Ugadi. The Vedike had also filed a Public Interest Litigation or PIL and given a representation to the District Commissioner.
And the officials certainly acted swiftly. Church authorities insist the land was sanctioned for a Christian graveyard. And say they have documents to prove it. They say they will take legal action.
Rev Peter Machado, Archbishop of Bengaluru was emotional as he told NDTV, "The Christian community is very hurt. They uprooted the statue like it was a piece of cement. What happened was a desecration. I want the statue to be returned to where it was. To do this at the time before Easter is very hurtful."
Responding to what the Vedike had said, the Archbishop said, "Have we come to a level of mobocracy that a mob tells you what to do? The Chief Minister is a gentleman. He has allotted funds for us in the recent budget. But he should control the fringe groups. The fringe groups are bringing him discredit. When he was in power in 2008, our churches were attacked. Now it is our statues. I join my hands and ask the government to help us."
Kumar Bangarappa, BJP MLA, told NDTV, "First you should know the law of the land. The state government has given Rs 200 crore for the same Christian community. It is not intentional that we are against somebody. It has gone against the law. Whether it is Jesus Christ, a mosque or a temple, I think the law stands above everything. The Ram Mandir issue that went on for centuries, ultimately justice prevailed. Muslims accepted the judgment of the Supreme Court and they are looking out for another place. Likewise, this is another decision that the government has taken."
N A Haris, a Congress MLA, was critical of the move. "Why did they remove it? I think the government should answer why this decision was taken."