Four men who allegedly attacked the Saint George Catholic Church in New Panvel on Saturday were arrested on Tuesday. Police said the four are gamblers and after a raid had been conducted at their den, which is close to the church, they presumed church authorities had complained and hence attacked the church, the police said.
On March 23, Hindustan Times had reported that there was no political or communal reason behind the attack.
The main accused – Rahul Patil, 39, a resident of New Panvel – used to run an online lottery business. Several people, including his brother-in-law, Laxman Sugwekar, 21, the other accused, worked under him. The other two accused are Tabarak Shaikh, 20, and Anil Chauhan, 27, both employees of Patil.
“Patil had started a gambling business under the flyover in front of the church around a month ago. People used to come there to gamble and drink every day and this created a lot of nuisance in the area. Some members of the church had told him to stop the business, but he paid no heed,” said Fateh Singh Patil, additional commissioner of police of Navi Mumbai.
“After the Khandeshwar police got to know about the menace, they conducted a raid there and arrested two people on Thursday. Patil’s gambling business was shut after that. Assuming that the church authorities had complained, Patil told Sugwekar, Shaikh and Chauhan to attack the church. He also gave them his two-wheeler for the task,” he said.
“Sugwekar, Shaikh and Chauhand threw three stones at the statue, one of which broke the glass case the statue was enclosed in,” Patil said.
“We found out their identity from CCTV footage and finally zeroed in on them. They were arrested from different places on Tuesday,” said Sanjay Yenpure, deputy commissioner of police (zone 2).
“A resident of Panvel who gave use some details about the accused has been given the Rs 10,000 cash prize announced earlier,” said Sunil Bajare, senior police inspector (crime branch).