Police said Tuesday they were investigating a blaze that devastated a church in east Delhi, as hundreds of Christians took to the streets to protest what they said was a deliberate attack.
A church spokesman said there was a strong smell of kerosene after the fire on Monday morning at Saint Sebastian's, one of Delhi's biggest churches.
"It is a deliberate attack. We don't know who has done it but it was well planned," Savarimuthu Sankar, a spokesman for the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, told AFP.
"The electrical mains unit is intact, so there could not have been a short circuit."
Police said they had registered a case of "mischief by fire" and were questioning various people, including the church watchman.
"The police have assured us that they will constitute a special team to investigate as early as possible and nab the culprits," Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto told TV channels.
Hundreds of members of the Christain community and social activists took part in the demonstration before the police headquarters. A delegation of the protesters met city police chief BS Bassi and put forward their demands. before him with the latter assuring them of a speedy probe in the case.
A substantial portion of the church was gutted in the fire which broke out Monday on its premises. Police have registered a case in the matter under Section 436 (mischief) of IPC upon a complaint from the church authorities. According to the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, the entire interior of the church, including the Altar, the Holy Bible and Cross, were reduced to ashes in the blaze.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien called on the authorities to act swiftly."Horrified. Angry. Saddened with news of Delhi church burnt/destroyed," he tweeted.
The church, constructed in 2001, was active till Sunday night because of religious ceremonies for Catholic children receiving their first Holy Communion.