Those responsible for the attack on a church in New Panvel will be caught at the earliest, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Monday, even as revenue minister Eknath Khadse told the Assembly the government suspects the involvement of “foreign hand in the incident”.
Stones were thrown at the St George Church in New Panvel in the wee hours of Saturday, damaging the glasses encasing the statue outside the church. A delegation of representatives from the Christian community met Fadnavis at the Vidhan Bhavan on Monday. BJP’s Bandra MLA Ashish Shelar, who facilitated the meeting, later told the media the CM has promised to catch the culprits within 48 hours. “Fadnavis has taken serious view of the incident. He has been monitoring the investigation and has directed the police to leave no stone unturned to crack the case,” said Shelar.
The chief minister’s office, however, denied setting a timeframe to catch the accused.
Members of the delegation said the incident has spread fear among the community. They demanded constitution of fact-finding committees at the city-, taluka- and district- level to curb rising incidents of attacks on places of worship of the minority community.
Jaykar Ellis, general secretary, National Christian Council, said, “We told Fadnavis the community was concerned about the attacks across the country. He has assured us that such attacks will not be tolerated.”
Replying to an adjournment motion by NCP legislator Jitendra Awhad in the Assembly, Khadse said, “There is a possibility of a political motive behind the attack. I also suspect a foreign hand. We will catch the culprits and the truth will be tabled on the floor of the house.”
Ellis said they have demanded a corpus fund for the repair, maintenance and makeover of the churches, on the lines of a provision made by the Karnataka government. “We have also demanded allotment of land for new burial grounds, as the existing cemeteries don’t have space. Fadnavis promised to talk to the municipal commissioners of various cities about it,” he said.