Jabalpur/Mumbai: Amid widespread outcry over an attack on a cathedral and a church-run school in Jabalpur in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, police on Monday arrested six people belonging to a right-wing Hindu group but let them off on bail soon, drawing flak from the Christian community. But in neighbouring Maharashtra, also ruled by BJP, a probe into Saturday’s attack on a Navi Mumbai church was yet to make any breakthrough even as the issue triggered a heated debate in the Assembly, leading to the Opposition walk-out.
Police identified those arrested in Jabalpur as Dharam Sena leader Yogesh Agrawal and his associates Nitin Rajak, Prateek Pyasi, Anurag Choukse, Abhishek Choukse and Sharad Rao.
According to Additional SP Isha Pant, they had been booked under Sections 148 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 294 (punishment for obscene acts or words in public), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 427 (mischief) and other relevant sections of IPC.
They were, however, granted bail by the Cantonment Police, under whose jurisdiction the incident took place, on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 each. The church authorities expressed disappointment over the grant of bail immediately after the arrest. “We are not at all happy. The action (arrest) appears just a formality. We want that they be punished,” a church spokesperson said.
A delegation of Christian community led by Vicar of Peter and Paul Cathedral Father James D’Souza met Jabalpur IGP D Sriniwas Roa and lodged a protest over the bail granted to the accused and handed over to police the CCTV footage of the attack. The incident took place on March 20 night and the wee hours of March 21 when some members of the minority community were allegedly assaulted and threatened by Dharam Sena and Bajrang Dal activists, who also attacked the school and a parsonage alleging religious conversion had been taking place there.
The church authorities complained that the accused stormed into the Cathedral premises and a school housing a grotto with St Mary’s idol and broke earthen pots and shattered glass panes of windows.
Meanwhile, the Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly came out strongly against the delay in tracing the miscreants who stoned the St George statue in front of the Catholic Church near Panvel in Navi Mumbai.
While promising prompt action, Maharashtra Minority Affairs Minister Eknath Khadse also said “a political hand” may be behind the incident. “Foreign hand, anti-social elements or political person may be involved in the incident,” Khadse said. Accusing the BJP-Shiv Sena Government of politicising the issue, the Opposition parties walked out of the House.
Joining the issue, the Aam Aadmi Party said the attack on churches appeared to be part of a deliberate attempt to vitiate the social atmosphere and polarise society, and demanded time-bound probe.
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