In a separate incident in Bhatkal, the glass enclosure of Mother Mary’s statue at St Antony’s Church at Ternamakki under Murdeshwar police station was smashed by unidentified miscreants late on Sunday night.
The incident came to light when devotees arrived at the church to pray on Monday morning.
In the Hinkal incident, the police suspect that the three-foot tall statue made of plaster of paris and placed on the offering box was damaged after miscreants tried to break open the offering box before escaping.
The church cook spotted the damaged statue around 6:30 am and informed Father Joseph who, in turn, brought the matter to the notice of Vijayanagar police station.
Promising that the government will spare no effort to bring the culprits to book, Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa said he had directed the police to submit a detailed report.
“The government will not tolerate any attempts to stir communal harmony. Action will be taken against the culprits without any hesitation,” he stated.
Stating that the Government was committed to protecting the minorities, he said it was conspiracy by vested interests to breach the peace. “Everybody is aware who is behind the attacks and what their motives are,” Yeddyurappa said.
As news of the damaged statue spread, residents living in the surrounding areas assembled at the church. Arch Bishop Thomas Valipillay, MLA Satyanarayana and tehsildar Geetakrishna inspected the spot.
Father Joseph recalled that a similar incident had occured in 2002 when miscreants not only attacked the church but had also tried to kill a person. Claiming that it was a “pre-planned attack”, Father Joseph said that he did not rule out the involvement of outsiders.
Expressing anguish, the Bishop said the latest incident was an insult to the entire Christian community. Echoing Father Joseph’s sentiments, the Bishop said in the past BJP, RSS and Bajrang Dal activists had attacked the church. “The police should take stern action against the culprits,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) B R Ravikanthe Gowda told reporters that the miscreants, in a bid to steal money from the offering box, might have damaged the statue. The church did not have any security staff and the church authorities had been requested to appoint private security guards. Sniffer dogs were taken around the church premises and fingerprints lifted from the crime scene. Pointing out that forensics experts from Bangalore had been summoned, Gowda said all circumstantial evidence and clues will be analysed.