Even as the Navi Mumbai police are investigating the New Panvel church attack, the church authorities believe that no political force was involved in the attack.
Three unidentified people came on a bike around 1.30 am on Saturday and hurled stones at the statue of St George, outside Saint George Catholic Church. The glass pane covering the statue was damaged in the attack, but the statue remained intact.
While two of the attackers were wearing masks, the other’s face was uncovered. The incident was captured on CCTV cameras installed in the church.
Speaking to HT, Father Shaji Parickppallim, parish priest of the church, said, “We don’t think that it’s a part of the series of attacks on churches that is going on in other parts of the country. We can say that it was a stray incident. However, we think the attackers were sent by someone else. Now, who was the mastermind behind it, what’s their motive? That is still a part of the investigation.”
CM Devendra Fadnavis, meanwhile, said the government strongly condemns the incident, adding that such instances of religious violence would not be tolerated. “We will nab them soon,” he said.
Denying the rumour that the church had received threat calls before the attack, Father Shaji Parickppallim said, “We did not receive any call from anyone. We had stationed a watchman, but he was sleeping the night the incident took place.”
After this attack, the Navi Mumbai police have deployed guards at every church in Panvel and the areas nearby. Navi Mumbai police commissioner KL Prasad said that the registration number of the bike was not visible in the CCTV footage.
“The CCTV footage we have received from the church is not clear. We have sent it to a forensic lab so that we can get an enlarged version of the footage,” said Fateh Singh Patil, additional commissioner of police, Navi Mumbai.
“We have two police officials for protection. We think the police are investigating the case in the right direction,” Father Shaji added.
Nearly 1,000 people gathered at the church on Sunday, to show their support. Local politicians from Panvel also lined up at the church, expressing solidarity.
Dr Abraham Mathai, former vice chairman of the state minorities commission, however, believes that communal forces were behind the attack. “I am sure some people who are against the communal harmony of this country planned this attack. The police investigations will reveal the truth,” he said.
Echoing Mathai’s sentiment, Dr Jayakar Ellis, general secretary of National Christian Council, said, “The attack was planned just to serve the vested interests of some anti-social elements. However, peace and harmony in the city will remain intact.”