Christian statues attacked after fake news spread in Andhra Pradesh
by Nirmala Carvalho

Hindu nationalists target a shrine in the diocese of Guntur falsely claiming that a cross was erected at the site of a Hindu idol. However, local police refuted the assertion, noting that the Hindu site is on a different hillock. Following the incident, local Catholics held a peaceful protest, supported by people from other religions.

Guntur (AsiaNews) – The Catholic community in Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) held a peaceful protest today following the desecration of the statues of Our Lady, the Child Jesus and the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the night of 14-May 15 at a Christian prayer site on a hillock. The latter had been in the crosshairs of Hindu nationalists for a long time.

“Priests, nuns, lay people, faithful of other confessions, and people of good took part” in the protest, said Bishop Bhagyaiah Chinnabathini of Guntur, speaking to AsiaNews, gathering “together to show unity, peace and solidarity to those victimised by this gesture. We met at the centre named after Mother Teresa to peacefully protest.”

According to Fr Bala Subash Chandra Bose, the shrine’s rector, false accusations have been circulating in Hindutva circles since last year, claiming that a cross was erected at the site of a Hindu idol on the same hillock in Guntur district.

Sunil Deodhar, the national secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and party boss in Andhra Pradesh, has been spreading the rumour.

On his official twitter account, he accuses “Christian mafias” of building an “illegal Cross in Edlapadu, AP where once foot prints of #SitaMaa existed Carving of Lord Narasimhama exists at back.” Lord Narasimhama is one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu.

Soon after, local police directly contradicted the claim, posting a video message clearly showing that the cross and the Hindu idol are on different hillocks and had nothing to do with each other.

Despite this, the hostility towards the Christian place of prayer has persisted.

Fr Bose explains that Christians bought the land 35 years ago and erected a cross that has become a place of gathering and prayer.

“Because more and more people come to pray each year, we decided to build a shrine,” he added. And “Last year we erected the cross, which BJP nationalists object to.”

The shrine on the hillock can be reached by a path with 170 steps. Once visitors reach the top, they can six statues, including the three that were vandalised, at the shrine’s entrance.