Sunday, July 9, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Blast in church sparks arson

HUBLI, July 8 (UNI) — A bomb exploded in St Johns Luthern Church here following which arson and violence broke out forcing the police to resort to a lathi charge to disperse the mob which torched a state road transport corporation bus on the Gadag road in Dharwad district today.

The door of the church was damaged in the explosion, which occurred around 4 a.m. As the news spread, people indulged in stone throwing in which three buses, a truck and an autorickshaw were damaged forcing the police to resort to a lathi charge. The traffic on the Pune-Bangalore national highway was disrupted when at least 500 Christians assembled at the Rani Channamma circle and staged a dharna.

Dharwad District Deputy Commissioner Vandana Gurnani visited the church and assured the agitators that culprits would be brought to book.

Rev Bishop Balmi, who addressed the demonstrators, has called for a two-day “Hubli bandh” from July 10.

This was the second incident in the last fortnight after an attack on the residence of Priest Samuel Hosalli on June 22.

In Bangalore, leaders of Christian community, including priests, have condemned the incident and appealed to people to eschew any violence.

In a joint statement, they said the Christian community in India, in keeping with the church’s commitment to peace, has been suffering in silence. They, appealed to the central and state governments to protect nuns, preachers and institutions.

The signatories to the statement included Archbishop of Karnataka Ignatius Pinto, All India Christian Council President Dr Joseph d’Souza, Federation of Karnataka Christian Organisations Vice President Philomena Peries.

In a separate statement, Global Council of Indian Christians National Convener Sajan K George, condemned the bomb explosion. He also urged the state government to provide adequate protection to the places of worship and help re-build the damaged structures from the state fund.

Meanwhile, members of the Inter-Church Committee today called on Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu who assured them that all out efforts would be made to nab the miscreants responsible for bomb explosions in churches.

In a swift action, Karnataka Home Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, who was in Hassan to attend a police meet, ordered a high-level probe into the incident and said he would visit Hubli tomorrow or the day after, official sources said.

In Bangalore, Christian leaders expressed shock over the explosion and asked the central and state governments to protect nuns, preachers and Christian institutions.

In a joint statement, they said the attack came in the wake of similar bomb attacks on churches in Karnataka, Goa and Andhra Pradesh in June.

Meanwhile, as part of a nationwide programme, Christian organisations observed today as the “National day of Solidarity Against Communal and Fascist forces”.

All 30 churches in the twin cities of Hubli-Dharwad will be provided police protection in the wake of the violent incidents in the city.

Police Commissioner Dharmpal Negi assured the Christian community after a meeting here today that police would thoroughly search the churches before prayers, besides holding peace meeting in Christian colonies.

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