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Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 11:17 UK

Arrests over India church attacks

A church attacked by a mob in Karnataka on 14 September 2008
The attacks on churches were reported from two districts

Police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have arrested over 60 people in connection with attacks on churches and clergymen over the weekend.

More than a dozen churches were ransacked by alleged activists of the radical Hindu group Bajrang Dal.

The Bajrang Dal claims that Hindus are being illegally converted to Christianity in the area.

Last month, anti-Christian violence in the eastern Orissa state led to the deaths of at least 20 people.

'Social disharmony'

The police in Karnataka say that churches were attacked by mobs in the districts of Udupi and Chikmagalur on Sunday.

Over 60 people have been detained after outraged Christian groups protested and called for a shutdown in the coastal city of Mangalore, which is the worst affected by the violence.

Last month more than 2,000 schools run by Christian organisations in Karnataka shut down for a dayin protest against the anti-Christian violence in Orissa.

Karnataka is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has close ties with the Bajrang Dal.

"The BJP is responsible for the attacks. It is creating social disharmony," the main opposition Congress party leader Mallikarjun Kharge said.

Orissa rampage

Meanwhile in Orissa two more people were killed and 12 injured when police opened fire on a rioting mob in Kandhamal district on Saturday.

Protests against attacks on Christians in Orissa
Orissa has been rocked by anti-Christian violence

The district has seen large scale violence since 24 August in which at least 20 people have been killed and dozens of churches and thousands of houses torched.

Saturday evening's incident took place at Kurtamgarh village where a mob went on the rampage burning houses and prayer halls.

When security forces tried to disperse the crowd, somebody from the crowd shot and injured a policeman, the police said.

The police say they were forced to open fire, resulting in the deaths of two people.

On Friday night, six houses and a Christian prayer house were torched by a mob in Kandhamal district, the police said.

The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the violence in Orissa as a "national disgrace".

Correspondents say Hindu groups have long accused Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to change their faith.

Christians say lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape the Hindu caste system.


SEE ALSO
Riots grip India's Orissa region
26 Aug 08 |  South Asia
Indian police shoot three dead
28 Dec 07 |  South Asia

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