Kanakapura is a town 55 km south to Bengaluru famous for silk and granite. A tourism hotspot, its lush green forests make it a favourite for avid trekkers and wildlife enthusiasts. It is blessed with the river Arkavathi (incarnation of River Kaveri). This ends the Wikipedia aided description of the constituency of Congress strongman and six-time MLA of D.K. Shivakumar.
The town, with a population of 47,047, came into the limelight a few days back, thanks to Christ’s statue row invented by the Hindutva outfits. On 13th January, Hindu fanatical outfits like the RSS, VHP and Hindu Jagran Vedike (HJV), fully backed by the BJP, organised the “Kanakapura Chalo” protest rally against the installation of a 114 feet statue of resurrected Jesus Christ at Kapalabetta hill of Harobele village, 14 km from Kanakapura.
The Week ’s online report on January 14 describes, “ Kapalabetta — a serene hill overlooking the Harobele dam nestled amid a chain of hillocks in Kanakapura, where Arkavathy river quietly flows — has suddenly turned into a political battleground. A proposed 114 feet-tall statue of Jesus Christ atop the hill is the trigger for the saffron brigade to erupt in protest…”
The reason for the protest, saffron groups alleged, is large scale forced conversion of Hindu local residents by Christian missionaries. This allegation is forthright false. Reports by respected and independent newspapers like the Hindu reveal that there was no forced conversion at all to Christianity in the vicinity.
Harobele, the epicentre of the controversy, is a hamlet of 4493 people in 947 households. The village has about 3,500 Christians, who, according to available records, have grown from around 1,000 Christians way back in the 18th Century. The number of Christians has not risen all of a sudden. Therefore, conversion claimed by Hindu right-wing leaders has absolutely no truth. The growth figure is itself evidence for absence of any large scale conversion.
One undeniable fact is to be underlined so that unscrupulous, malicious and vested allegations are put to rest. The predominately Christian village in the area is Harobele alone. All other surrounding villages like Nallahalli, Krishnayyana Doddi, are non-Christian villages. So where is the question of conversion, forced or otherwise? The church in Harobele village runs one of the best schools in the area. Children from other villages study in the school. There has been no complaint of any attempt to convert them.
Another trick engineered by the above groups is equating Kapalabetta with Muneeshwara Betta thus justifying the disruption of the erection of Christ’s statue. Hindutva outfit leaders claim Kapalabetta is appropriated by Christians of the sacred place for Hindus called Muneshwara Hill. This is a blatant lie. There is no appropriation by Christians. Locals who talked to reporters say Kapalabetta and Muneeshwara Betta are different hillocks. They are not the same. Muneshwara Hill is about three km from Kapalabetta. A Muneshwara temple does exist atop the hill. But there was no Muneshwara temple in Kapalabetta. So, appropriation of Kapalabetta as Muneeshwara Betta is in fact attempted by right wing groups not Christian missionaries. And it is certainly done with a mischievous intention of misleading the gullible public.
A newspaper quoting Hombe Gowda, an 85 year old says, “Kapalabetta has always been a Christian site even from my father’s time. We are amused at what the leaders are saying and the television is reporting that Kapalabetta was a Hindu site called Muneeshwara Betta. That is a different hillock.”
Kapalabetta has been associated with that Christians of Harobele village (in which Kapalabetta is situated) since 1662. There are records showing this 358 year old association. In fact, it is also called “Yesu Betta”. On top of Kapalabetta there is cross erected in 1906 when a play titled ‘Yesu Kristana Padugalu mattu Punaruthana’ was performed on Good Friday. At the site there are also images or statues depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross (Way of the Cross). For at least 114 years there has been an unbroken tradition of staging a play on Good Fridays enacting the scenes from the condemnation of Jesus by King Pilate to his crucifixion and burial on mount Calvary. There are living testimonies which say that Christians and Hindus from the village and the surrounding area participate in the annual festival. The number of devotees crosses 10,000 while Christian population is only 3,500.
Now, the villagers proposed to add the 15th station by installing the statue of the risen Christ atop a nearby hill. They approached their MLA, D.K. Shivakumar, who donated the land he purchased from the state government. So the Christians have done no wrong. They only invited their representative to lay the foundation stone for the ‘world’s tallest’ statue of Jesus Christ on Christmas day last year. If there was any illegality in the construction or acquiring of the land or if the land is a grazing field or if the location is associated with Hindus, the RSS and others can go to court. Why take a protest rally in huge number? Why create uproar?
The opposition to the erection of Christ’s statue in Karnataka comes at the time when CAA is in the process of being implemented, though amid nation-wide protests. Will Christians from Pakistan or Bangladesh or Afghanistan come to India if they are denied the right to worship, build churches and statues of Christ? This is the highest level of hypocrisy of BJP, RSS and others. While they propose to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted Christians from neighbouring Muslim countries they will continue to persecute them in their own land. They will continue to harass, threaten, intimidate and even harm Christians. They will continue to utter, ‘go to Pakistan’.
The local population welcome the installation of the statue. They have no objection to Christians putting up the statue of ‘ Christ the Redeemer’. Many Hindus have even contributed to the fund for the purpose. Why are the RSS and their associates opposed the statue? It is to put an end to the social and religious harmony that has been existing in the area from time immemorial. As mentioned earlier, the celebration in Kapalabetta is an annual calendar for Christians and Hindus alike. Hindu devotees go there to offer muni (sacrifice) to the Cross. Devotees with a Rudraksha and a Cross around their necks regularly trek to the peak of the hill to pray to Jesus.
The BJP with the help of the RSS and the Sangh Parivar groups might want to dethrone D.K. Shivakumar from his bastion. But why should they use Christians for their political motives? Why target a statue? The answer is simple. Fanatical groups can succeed only through polarisation and division. Hope the voters of Kanakapura do not fall prey to the divisive and exclusive agenda of forces who want to create animosity, acrimony, hostility, enmity, antagonism and hatred among religions, races and castes thus making India a conflict-ridden society.
The BJP and its right wing organizations’ anti-Christians attitude is in spite of the fact the Church has contributed immensely to the progress of the nation particularly in education and health care through their quality educational, medical and technical institutions. In Karnataka too the Christian community has selflessly served the society. A politician in the state noted that Muller Hospital was established to treat leprosy and opened a special ward for psychiatric patients. Surely there more Christians institutions in rural and urban Karnataka catering to the educational, medical and, why not, religious needs of the people. Those who cannot match the good works of Christians are anti-Christians. They even want to saffronise one of the few Christian majority villages.
During Kanakapura intimidating saffron protest an RSS firebrand leader referred to the North East by informing that he runs a school that has students from the ‘Seven Sister’ states but no one is converted to Hinduism, he asserted. It must be true. But one is quite certain that there is indoctrination and radicalisation of students from the region studying in such schools in mainland India and even in the north-eastern states. There is a clear agenda and strategy to saffronise and ‘Hindutvise’ the entire region. Four (Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura) of the seven states are presently ruled by the BJP. In two states (Meghalaya and Nagaland), the saffron party is a partner in coalition governments. Only Mizoram is remaining clear of the hyper nationalist party. Another tactic to make inroads into the North East is by infiltrating into indigenous religions and falsely persuading their adherents that they belong to Hinduism.
Returning to the point there is space only to reemphasise that barring illegality the statue of Christ on Kapalabetta in Kanakapura, Harobele in Karnataka must be built. India belongs to all faiths, Christians very much included.(Published on 27th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 05)