Hundreds of Hindus gathered to protest a planned Jesus statue that would rival Rio de Janeiro’s “Christ The Redeemer” for its size, claiming the structure will go “against the spirit of communal harmony.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party and RSS staged a protest against the proposal to construct the 114-ft tall statue in Kanakapura. The rally began from Ayyappa Swamy Temple and concluded with a public meeting at Channabasappa Circle in Kanakapura.

Senior RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat, who was leading the rally, addressed the gathering, claiming the people living in and around Kapali hill do not want the statue. “Why Jesus statue? Why cannot we erect a statue of Basavanna or Vishveshatheertha of Pejawar mutt or Balagangadharanatha Swamiji, who has contributed to the nation?’’ Bhat questioned.

Carrying saffron flags as around 1,000 police stood by, protesters demanded that the state government reverse its decision to allot land for the proposed 114 foot Jesus statue or face further demonstrations. The Jesus statue is expected to stand atop a hillock named Kapalabetta in Harobele, a village of 3,500 where Christians form a majority.

Many Hindus believe the hill where the statue is set to stand is the abode of a Hindu deity, Munieshwara (a form of Lord Shiva). However, no temple currently exists there.

However, Father Cyril Victor Joseph, believes that the controversy is unnecessary. The land in Ramanagara district has long been owned by the church, Archdiocese of Bangalore.

“We used the same land for decades and conducted the Way of the Cross during Good Fridays,” he said. “A cross was there, and we wanted to replace it with a statue of Jesus after the land was donated to us.”

Responding to a question on a protest by those opposing it, former Karnataka Minister and Congress MLA from Kanakapura DK Shivakumar said that the decision to construct the Jesus Christ statue in his constituency was not his but that of the villagers.

“It is not my decision but that of the Christian community of the village, being the MLA I have to help. The land was given for it, everything is legal. I have been their legislator for the past 30 years, I have to support them” Shivakumar said.

Bhat blamed Shivakumar for going ahead with the plan just to please his party high command Sonia Gandhi.

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