Del Govt appoints SIT to probe fire in church

Del Govt appoints SIT to probe fire in church

Delhi Government today appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the mysterious fire at a church here even as the Christian community sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention for a judicial probe into the incident as well as "violence" against them in some other states.

Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung constituted an SIT under the leadership of Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ravindra Yadav soon after a delegation led by Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto called on him seeking a detailed probe into the fire that gutted St Sebastian's Church in Tahirpur area in northeast Delhi yesterday.

The Christians had alleged foul play in the fire.Despite the assurance, leaders of the community demanded a judicial inquiry in this case and intervention of the Prime Minister.

"In their memorandums to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the community leadership pressed its demand for a Judicial Enquiry by at least a sitting or retired Judge of a High court into the Delhi arson against a church, but also the hate speeches and targeted violence against the community, its churches, religious priests, pastors and nuns, and its institutions in several states, particularly Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh," an official statement said.

The LG assured Couto of zero tolerance against targeted and communal violence in the national capital. He said he was directing the Police Commissioner to see that the investigations into the burning of the church were carried out expeditiously and that all preventive measures were taken.

The state government, he said, was deeply concerned about such issues.Earlier in the morning, scores of members of the Christian community and social activists staged a protest outside the Delhi Police headquarters over alleged police inaction in the case and demanded enhanced security measures for the minority community.

The protesters blocked ITO junction for almost two hours causing massive jams on related routes and disrupting connectivity between East and central Delhi during the morning rush hour.Later, a delegation of the protesters met city police chief BS Bassi who assured them of a speedy probe in the case. Special Commissioner (Law and Order) Deepak Mishra briefed about the formation of an SIT and the security measures Delhi Police is going to take.

Addressing the protesters, Archbishop Anil Couto said that they would wait to see the Central and State governments' action before deciding the next course of action."The burning of the church had created a sense of insecurity, and the government had to show by its action that it was concerned and would ensure security of all minorities, specially the small Christian community in their motherland where they have been living peacefully for 2,000 years.

"The government has to end targeted violence and impunity so that the Constitutional guarantees of freedom of faith for all citizens were seen on the ground. We are hoping the Prime Minister and his government will reaffirm this commitment," he said.

Father Stanley Kozhichira, media director of the Delhi archdiocese said that they want the local SHO to be transferred as he had failed to prevent the incident. As to the fire itself, Kozhichira said it seems to be a deliberate act as they could smell kerosene on the spot.

A substantial portion of the church was gutted in the fire which broke out yesterday on its premises. Police had registered a case in the matter under Section 436 (mischief) of IPC upon a complaint from the church authorities.Samples were collected from the spot by the Fire Department and an FSL team to ascertain the cause behind the blaze, police said.

"We have received a complaint in this regard following which we have registered an FIR and further investigations are underway," a senior police official had said.

According to the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, the entire interior of the church, including the Altar, the Holy Bible and Cross, were reduced to ashes in the blaze.The church, constructed in 2001, is among the biggest churches in east Delhi. It was active till Sunday night because of religious ceremonies for Catholic children receiving their first Holy Communion.

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