'Second attack on church'

Bishops write to Modi, plan to protest at Bassi's office

The fire at St Sebastian’s Church in north-east Delhi has not only desecrated the holiest of holy place of the Christians, but also caused immense pain and agony to the Christian community, Catholic bishops said on Monday.

They sent memorandums to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and plan to demonstrate at Delhi Police Commissioner Bhim Sain Bassi’s office on Tuesday.

Delhi Catholic Archdiocese spokesperson Savarimuthu Sankar told Deccan Herald that the church was also attacked around four years ago during Christmas.

“Stone pelting was done which we had reported with police, but no action was initiated,” he said.

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, requested Modi and Singh to have the culprits booked immediately.

“A thorough investigation has to be ordered and carried out with speed and priority,” he said. A judicial enquiry has also been demanded saying that the entire interior, including the Altar, the Holy Bible and Cross were reduced to ashes.

It is also alleged that senior Delhi Police officers came to the spot after many hours, and once the agitated members of the community blocked the roads in the area.

Samples were retrieved from the inside of the church, which was still “smelling of fuel oil”.

Till late in the evening, police could not say they had made any progress in their investigations.

Addressing the media, Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto said that apart from the judicial enquiry, the government  must repair the building before Christmas, ensure that policemen guilty of dereliction of duty are punished, and  special police investigation teams are set up to trace the guilty.

 Couto said the arson was condemnable not just because it was an act of sacrilege and hate against the community and its faith, but that it could happen in the national capital which is just recovering from a series of communal incidents. 

“Also distressing is the sense of police impunity. Long hours were lost, and possible evidence destroyed, before police finally came,” he added. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal  was among those visited the site.

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