Bangalore: Vandals desecrated a century-old landmark Catholic church that runs two schools and a college in southern Karnataka, leaving behind a shattered statue and another partly damaged in the Sunday afternoon attack barely a fortnight before Christmas.
The intruders, however, could not enter the church building in Shirva, Udupi district, as all the doors had been well secured.
But the assault left a sour taste in the relatively peaceful district that has rarely seen such attacks on minority institutions.
Church sources said the 103-year-old institution – Our Lady of Health Church – in Udupi district, around 380km from Bangalore, had its usual Sunday mass but the authorities found the statues vandalised when they returned after the afternoon break yesterday.
The one completely destroyed was that of St Antony while a statue of St Lawrence had been displaced from its pedestal and damaged in the process, parish priest Father Stanly Tauro said.
The statues, both 2ft tall, were placed just outside the main door of the church, which runs the Don Bosco School and St Mary’s school and St Mary’s College on its 10-acre campus.
“Everything was fine when we left around 12.30pm (on Sunday), the usual time when everyone leaves after the mass. The incident was discovered after 3pm,” the priest told The Telegraph today.
Tauro had immediately informed police, who arrived and took his written complaint.
“I have no idea who would do such a thing. But it appears the incident took place between 1pm and 3pm, when no one was around on the campus,” Tauro, whose parish is home to around 1,050 Catholic families, added. “Unfortunately no one is around on Sundays (as the schools and the college were closed for the weekend).
Tauro said both the CCTV cameras at the spot were out of order. “We realised the CCTV system was dead when we checked it yesterday. I feel it was affected because of frequent power failures in this area.”
Immediately after the complaint the police had deployed fingerprint experts and sniffer dogs. “This area has not seen any such incidents. So we are looking at all possible angles,” Udupi district police superintendent K.T. Balakrishna said.
The officer said a special team had been assigned to investigate the case. An FIR has been registered under the penal code’s Section 295, which deals with destruction and desecration of religious places.
Sunday’s incident in Udupi was the first since March 2013, when a group of alleged Bajrang Dal activists barged into a Christian prayer hall and assaulted seven worshippers. Twenty Bajrang activists were later arrested.