Six arrested for attack on church in Madhya Pradesh

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Jabalpur | Published: March 23, 2015 3:47:48 PM

Six persons allegedly involved in vandalising a church and a Catholic school...

Six persons allegedly involved in vandalising a church and a Catholic school, where people had gathered for a religious convention, were arrested in the wee hours today.

“We have arrested six persons involved in attacking the Catholic school and cathedral premises,” Jabalpur’s Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Isha Pant said.

Those arrested have been identified as Dharam Sena leader Yogesh Agrawal, and his associates Nitin Rajak, Prateek Pyasi, Anurag Choukse, Abhishek Choukse and Sharad Rao, the ASP said.

They have been booked under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 294 (punishment for obscene acts or words in public), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 427 (mischief) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC, besides other relevant sections, she said.

The incident took place on March 20 and in the wee hours of March 21 when some members of the Christian community were allegedly assaulted and threatened by activists of Bajrang Dal and Dharam Sena who attacked the school and a parsonage alleging that religious conversion had been taking place there.

The church authorities had alleged that the accused stormed into the Cathedral premises and a school housing a grotto with St Mary’s idol. They broke earthen pots and shattered glass panes of windows of the parsonage, charging Father Thankachan Jose with converting Hindus to Christianity.

Ravi Francis, claiming to be a witness, had earlier said that he was roughed up by Dharam Sena and Bajrang Dal activists who stormed into Saint Thomas School campus, where some people who came for a convention were staying.

Though Fr Thankachan and police officials held talks with leaders of the Hindu outfits to ease the situation, some of them stormed into the premises and started abusing them, he alleged.

Police sought to chase them from the campus, but they refused to give in and marched to the nearby Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral where the first day of the convention was held.

They then barged into the Cathedral premises shouting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and demanded that Fr Thankachan be handed over to them. As they could not find him there, they vandalised the parsonage, close to the Cathedral, Francis said.

“Though our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, it is being violated openly,” Fr Thankachan said.

The church had given the CCTV footage of the incident to the police.

The six arrested persons were later granted bail at the Cantonment Police Station on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 each, Jabalpur Superintendent of Police H C Mishra said.

A representative of the church expressed disappointment on letting off the accused on bail immediately after the arrest.

A delegation of Christian community members led by St Peter and Paul Cathedral’s parish priests Father James D’Souza met Jabalpur range Inspector General of Police D Sriniwas Roa and lodged a protest over the bail granted to the six accused.

When contacted, the IG said that community members had met him in the morning and handed over the CCTV footage of the alleged incidents to him.

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