Christians protest outside Rajnath's house, detained

Christians protest outside Rajnath's house, detained

Over 200 people were detained on Thursday when they tried marching towards Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s house to protest against the attacks on five city churches since December last year. They have demanded the Delhi High Court to monitor the police investigations into the attacks.

The Christian community representatives  in a memorandum to Singh listed the five recent attacks on churches. The first was the destruction of the St Sebastian Church at north-east Delhi’s Dilshad Garden on December 1 last year.

The representatives alleged that there was no information on the progress made by Delhi Police. The next attack was on the Syro Malabar Catholic Church at south east Delhi’s Jasola on December 3 last year.

They alleged that a window of the church was smashed by a rock during Holy Mass services. Then a crib was burnt to ashes at the Church of Resurrection in outer Delhi’s Rohini on January 3. Then a grotto was attacked at a church, Our Lady of Grace, at west Delhi’s Vikaspuri on January 14.

The latest incident was the alleged desecration of the Holy Communion by persons who broke into St. Alphonsa’s Church in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj on February 2.

“The guilty must be traced, and action under the law should be taken. Police officers must be held accountable for communal crimes in their jurisdiction. In Delhi, we demand a Special Investigating team be set up to investigate the five acts of violence against the catholic Churches, monitored by the High Court of Delhi,” community leaders said.

The Delhi Catholic Archdiocese alleged that even before the protest began, police used force and “arrested” leaders and people who were just beginning to gather in front of the Sacred Heart Cathedral near Connaught Place.

“Some of the leaders who were arrested and attacked include Father Susai Sebastian and Father Dominic Emmanuel, and many sisters who were elderly people and staging a peaceful protest with prayers and singing hymns,” a statement said.

Hearing of the “arrests”, Archbishop Anil Couto, the Archbishop of Delhi said, “I strongly condemn the action of the police who assaulted the priests, nuns and the elderly people who were holding a peaceful demonstration in front of the church.”

“This is not acceptable in a democratic country such as India and it is a blatant violation of fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution,” the Archbishop said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Vijay Singh clarified that the protesters were detained and not arrested.

“We detained 200 protesters under section 65 (persons bound to comply with the reasonable directions of police officer) of the Delhi Police Act. They didn’t have permission to protest outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral nor did they have permission to march to Home Minister’s house,” he said.

The protesters were detained at about 9.30 am. They were taken in buses to Parliament Street police station and released at about 2.30 pm.   
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