Church vandalized in Bengal; Mamata Banerjee promises to repair it
A newly-built church in Bengal’s East Midnapore district was vandalized on Saturday afternoon by a few motorcycle-borne youths who allegedly chanted Jai Shri Ram and carried the flag of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Three people have been arrested till Monday afternoon and police are looking for five more accused. Officials of the Bhagwanpur police station, who are investigating the case, have not commented on the political identify of the arrested men. The BJP has denied its involvement.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday afternoon spoke to the church’s pastor over the phone and assured him of police protection. She also promised that the state government will repair the damages.
“We had gathered for a prayer on December 28 when about 30 riders on 12 motorcycles arrived outside. They hurled bombs, forcefully entered the campus and vandalized property. All of them were carrying BJP’s flag and chanting Jai Shri Ram,” Anup Ghosh, pastor of the church said.
“They broke the doors and smashed windowpanes, damaged 12 ceiling fans and the sound system, furniture and even the water tank,” Ghosh alleged.
The small and independent church is named Apostolic Reconciliation Church and is located at Uttar Shibrampur village in the Bhagwanpur area of East Midnapore district. Incidentally, an attack on a church is very rare in West Bengal and members of the community could not recall any similar incident in the past.
“Local residents identified most of the vandals and we lodged a complaint with the police, naming all of them. The attack has shocked us, especially because those who did it threatened to come back and launch similar attacks on all churches in the neighbourhood,” Ghosh, a resident of Jadavpur in Kolkata said.
“Of the eight people named in the FIR, three have been arrested. They were produced before a court on Monday. Their bail pleas were rejected and they were remanded in police custody till January 13,” a police officer said.
Arpan Rana, secretary of the East Midnapore Christian Community Forum, said, “Four people, including two children, were injured during the vandalism. Two people fell unconscious. The church’s vehicle was ransacked and Rs 5,000 in cash looted.”
BJP’s Kanthi district unit president Anup Chakraborty denied the charge and blamed the state’s ruling Trinanool Congress (TMC) party for hatching a conspiracy.
“Why would BJP workers vandalize a church, that too while carrying the party flag. Our workers know that the party believes in coexistence of all faiths under the guiding principles of Indian culture,” said Chakraborty.