We feel insecure: Church attack protestors slam Modi govt

  • Agencies, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 06, 2015 08:32 IST

Police pulled demonstrators -- including several nuns and priests -- onto buses after they gathered outside one of New Delhi's largest cathedrals on Thursday to demand action over a series of recent attacks on churches.

Carrying crucifixes and placards that read "rights for all religions", the protesters demanded Modi's government speak out against the attacks in the capital.

Television footage showed one nun lying on the ground outside Sacred Heart Cathedral as officers tried to drag her onto a bus while another was seen shouting from the bus door.

Catholic priests accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of failing to protect religious minorities as some 200 Christian protesters clashed with the police in the capital.

Protesters pressed demands for government protection amid concern about rising intolerance after a series of attacks on churches. Demonstrators were pulled on to police buses as they tried to march from one of New Delhi's largest cathedrals near parliament to the residence of home minister Rajnath Singh.

"We are feeling insecure since this new government has come. The government and police haven't given any proper response to these attacks," Father Lawrence, a Catholic priest from south Delhi, told AFP.

"Five churches have been attacked in Delhi in the last two months without any proper response from the PM or any other central minister," he added.

The latest attack occurred on Monday when someone stole ceremonial items from a Catholic church, while another in north Delhi was hit by an arson attack in December.

Protesters accused hardline Hindu nationalists of carrying out the recent attacks on the churches, although police say there is no evidence.

"Our only demand is we want justice and we want protection for all our churches. We want to be safe and secure. We are not demanding as Christians, we are demanding as citizens of India," Delhi Catholic archdiocese spokesman Father Savarimuthu Shankar told NDTV.

"You (the government) are not able to protect a small municipal minority, how are you going to protect the whole of India?"

Police defended their detention of around 100 of the peaceful protesters after they tried to march on the residence of home minister Rajnath Singh. "They did not have any permission. They cannot hold a protest on the public road," Delhi joint police commissioner Mukesh Meena told NDTV.

Singh promised "an impartial inquiry" into the recent attacks and "proper" security of churches, after meeting with protest leaders later Thursday.

Singh assured Christians that security at their religious places will be stepped up as he asserted that any discrimination on the basis of religion will not be tolerated.

He said an impartial inquiry has been ordered into the recent incidents as a delegation of Christian leaders met him to say that five churches were attacked in the last two and a half months in Delhi and holy relics and holy communion were destroyed but police was doing nothing.

The home minister told the delegation that the government would not tolerate any discrimination on the basis of caste, colour or religion, a home ministry official said.

Singh also instructed Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi to make proper arrangements for the security of churches and other places of worship, he said.

The delegation gave a memorandum to him demanding security for Christians and their places of worship. "Police has done nothing and they have described the
incidents as simple theft, burglary and trespassing. We told the home minister that these were not simple incidents but attack on our religious places," said community leader John Dayal after the meeting.

Following their demand, the home minister has directed the police to insert certain provisions of the Indian Penal Code like "provocation with intent to cause riot, hurting religious sentiment" etc in the FIR, in cases of alleged discretion of churches, he said.

Jenis Francis, another community leader, said police have been dismissive of the complaints lodged by Christians about "targeted violence and persecution, both by political non-state actors and other elements".

"We demand that the government take urgent and effective measures to restore rule of law, curb the targeted and communal violence. The guilty must be traced and action under the law should be taken. Police officers must be held accountable for communal crimes in their jurisdiction," he said.


Francis said incidents of alleged attacks on churches have increased in the last six months and demanded setting up of a special investigating team for probing the five incidents of alleged violence against churches. He said the probe should be monitored by the Delhi high court.

Five churches in Delhi have reported incidents of arson, vandalism and burglary. The latest was reported on Monday when an individual stole ceremonial items.

In December, a Catholic church in north Delhi was gutted in a fire in a case of suspected arson.

(With inputs from AFP, PTI, Reuters)

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