Seven persons were injured when a group of about 25 people, allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal, attacked a prayer hall run by Word of Victory Ministries at Kattingeri village, about 12 km from Udupi, late on Friday night.

Of the seven injured, six, including an 80-year-old woman, have been admitted to the District Government Hospital in Udupi. One has been admitted to Kasturba Hospital in Manipal.

Soon after getting information about the attack, which is said to have occurred around 10.30 p.m., the police arrested 19 people. The prayer hall is attached to the house of the pastor, Roshan Lobo. The prayer hall is in an isolated place in the village.

Pratap Reddy, Inspector-General of Police (Western Range), who visited the spot on Saturday, told mediapersons that some persons were participating in a prayer at Mr. Lobo’s house around 10.30 p.m. on Friday when the group attacked.

19 arrested

Soon, the police, led by Superintendent of Police M.B. Boralingaiah, arrested 19 of the attackers. A case has been registered, he said.

To a query, he said that according to the complainant, Mr. Lobo, the attackers are members of the Bajrang Dal.

On the motive for the attack, Mr. Reddy said that they might have thought that conversions were taking place. “But we have not got any complaints of conversion. We will investigate the matter,” he said.

Attackers get bail

Sources in the Police Department said that all the 19 accused had been released on interim bail.

Mr. Lobo told The Hindu that around 10.30 p.m. on Friday, when seven to eight persons were praying in the prayer hall, he heard a big noise. A group of about 20 to 25 people attacked those praying, he said.

“They took the guitar used during the prayer and hit a person on his head with it. They were carrying iron rods. They beat those offering prayers, including my 80-year-old mother, Emily Lobo, who went to save a person,” he said, adding that property was damaged. The attack went on for nearly 45 minutes, he said.

Escapes from rear door

"I escaped from the rear door of the house and went to a nearby house and informed my friends, and they in turn informed the Superintendent of Police. Within 30 minutes, the SP, and other police officers reached the spot and arrested 19 of the attackers," he said. When the police were approaching the prayer hall, the attackers were abusing their victims and threatening to kill them and burn the prayer hall, Mr. Lobo alleged.

Asked which organisation was behind the act, Mr. Lobo said it was the Bajrang Dal. About 20 days back, a Bajrang Dal unit had started functioning at Mattar village.

The prayer hall had been functioning in the village for 12 years.

“About 10 years back, when the activists of Bajrang Dal came here, the police came immediately and nothing happened,” he recalled.

Joseph Valerian, a relative of Mr. Lobo, whose house is located some distance away from the prayer hall, told The Hindu that Mr. Lobo came rushing to his house around 10.45 p.m. and asked for a mobile phone to call the police. “There is no other house close by, so Mr. Lobo had to come here,” he said.