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Police detain Hindus over anti-Christian attacks

BANGALORE, India (Reuters) - Police detained a group of Hindus in Karnataka over weekend attacks on churches, officials said on Monday, as three states ruled by Hindu nationalists struggled to stop attacks on Christians.

A vehicle burns inside a church in Nuagoan village in the Kandhamal district of Orissa August 25, 2008, file photo. REUTERS/Stringer

The attacks, which have killed some 20 people over the past month, have been condemned by Pope Benedict. Roman Catholic bishops urged the European Union on Sunday to treat persecution of Christians worldwide as a humanitarian emergency.

Police said they were questioning seven Hindus in the state, where more than 20 churches have been damaged in the past week.

“They are being questioned and arrests may take place,” said M.R. Pujar, an officer in Bangalore.

Christians blame Hindu zealots for the attacks in Karnataka and in the states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh as well, where Hindu nationalists either rule outright or share power.

India does not have a long history of attacks on Christians, but intolerance has risen in the past two decades with a revival in Hindu nationalism.

Hindu zealots say they are determined to fight Christian missionaries they accuse of converting poor Indians.

Christian groups in India have protested against these attacks, blocking roads and shouting slogans in Karnataka and elsewhere, urging the government to act against radical Hindus.

“This government has failed to protect Christians from fanatical Hindu groups,” said M. Kharge, leader of the opposition Congress party in Karnataka, a view echoed by Christian leaders.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules in Karnataka, says the attacks on Christians were politically motivated to discredit the state government.

“Our government has taken all steps to maintain peace,” said Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa.

Already, more than 270 people have been arrested for the violence in Karnataka, including a local leader of a militant Hindu group.

The Italian government has also expressed concern at violence in India’s Orissa state, where Hindus angry at the murder of a religious leader blamed Christian communities and attacked them.

Some 20 people, mostly Christians, were killed in the ensuing violence and thousands of Christians fled their homes and are still living in jungles and government camps.

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