Church attack: Govt suspects ‘political hand’, oppn walks out
MUMBAI, MARCH 23
Maharashtra government today said that it suspects a “political hand” in the recent attack on a church in Navi Mumbai, even as the Opposition members walked out of the Assembly in protest against the incident.
Minority Affairs Minister Eknath Khadse said in the Legislative Assembly today that the state government was conducting a probe into the incident and culprits would be dealt with sternly.“A foreign hand, anti-social elements or a political person may be involved in the incident. A political hand cannot be ruled out. Detailed facts would be revealed before the end of the ongoing Legislature session,” Khadse said.
The minister said his government was committed to protect the lives and properties of citizens.
“We will take care to ensure that such inappropriate incidents do not take place in future,” he said.
Chhagan Bhujbal of NCP took objection to the reply, saying that the government was insensitive to the issue and was politicising it.
Earlier, the issue was raised in the Lower House through an adjournment notice given by Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and NCP legislator Jitendra Awhad.
While giving the adjournment notice, Awhad demanded a discussion on the incident saying there was a sense of fear among the minorities.
Speaker Haribhau Bagde rejected the opposition’s demand for discussion and asked the government to make a detailed statement on the matter.
Later, the Opposition members staged a walkout to protest the attack on the church.
According to police, the attack was carried out by two masked persons who were riding pillion on a motorcycle in the wee hours of Saturday when they hurled stones at the Saint George Catholic church located near a bridge in New Panvel.
In the incident, the covering glass outside the statue of Saint George got damaged.
There was no breakthrough in the probe though police were grilling some suspects.
Six arrested for vandalising church in Madhya Pradesh
JABALPUR, MARCH 23
Six people belonging to a right-wing Hindu group were arrested in connection with the attack on a cathedral in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh even as a “political or foreign hand” was suspected by the government in neighbouring Maharashtra in a similar incident in Navi Mumbai.
“We have arrested six persons involved in attacking the Catholic school and cathedral premises,” Jabalpur’s Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Isha Pant told PTI today.
The six arrested persons were later granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 each, prompting Church authorities to lodge a strong protest with the police.
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, Pant 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 incidents 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.