There has been no attack on the Christian community in Karnataka because of their religion and a spin is given to attacks on a personal level to create a campaign, Dr Ashwathnarayan CN -- the state's former Deputy Chief Minister and a minister in Basavaraj Bommai's cabinet --- told NDTV on Tuesday.
When it was pointed out that attacks are real, and videos of it have been aired, he said "it might be fabricated".
Since September, as the state cabinet started discussions on an anti-conversion bill, at least 7 attacks by right-wing vigilantes on churches and the Christian community have been reported in Karnataka. Religious books have been burnt and mobs have barged into churches and attacked its members.
In most cases, these have been preceded by unproven allegations of forcible conversion.
Church leaders have expressed concern that a bill may lead to an escalation in violence.
That the churches are being attacked is a "baseless allegation," Dr Ashwathnarayan told NDTV. "We are the most peaceful state -- Karnataka. There is no question of attacking churches or Christians. They are part and parcel of our society," he said.
When told that the attacks have been documented, there are videos of them, he said they could have been on a personal level - "individual to individual" - and one cannot give it a religious turn. "There is no question of targeting based on any religion," he added.
"Some people might have created it to create this kind of perception, this kind of campaign. It can be created by anybody... Some people with vested interests are creating this kind of campaign," Dr Ashwathnarayan reiterated.
According to a fact-finding report documented by the United Christians Forum, Association for Protection of Civil Rights and United Against Hate, from January to September this year, 32 attacks on churches and the Christian community have taken place. Between October and December, six attacks have been reported.
Indicating that the attacks have no link with the anti-conversion bill, he said the bill has not been placed before the cabinet or the assembly. "It is only a thought going on in the government to work in this direction, to regulate," he added.
Last week, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said the bill on forcible religious conversion will be up for discussion in the Winter Session of the state assembly and this was meant to avoid the forced conversions that are rampant in the state.
Asked if there are any figures on forcible conversions, senior BJP leader Vaman Acharya told NDTV that "data is not necessary".
"Data is not necessary because it's evident. Very clearly seen, from the increase of Christian population from 0.5 per cent to 3 per cent," he said.
Last available data from the Census of India shows that the population of Christians in Karnataka has fallen from 1.91% in 2001 to 1.87% in 2011.
Asked if there was evidence that the conversions were illegal, he said, "No. All conversions as far as we are concerned are illegal. All are illegal".