The interiors of St. Sebastian’s Church, Dilshad Garden, were destroyed in a fire on Monday morning, with the church authorities alleging that it “could be the work of some miscreants”.
A senior Delhi Police officer told The Hindu that they found a can of kerosene on the second floor of the church. “We cannot confirm foul play, but we are definitely looking into that angle,’’ he added.
The police have registered an FIR against unknown persons for causing the fire with malicious intent.
Anxious parishioners gathered near the church after the incident and later took out a procession to register their protest. No casualty was reported in the fire that was detected around 6 a.m. in the ten-year-old Catholic Church which has a membership of over 1,000 families.
Appealing to the Christian community to keep clam, Archbishop Anil. J. Couto said: “We suspect the involvement of some miscreants. The interiors of the church, including the altar and the place of worship, have been burnt down completely. The widows are shattered and the entire church unit on the ground and first floor has been destroyed.”
“A can of kerosene has been found within the church complex and we are extending all possible cooperation to the police,” added Fr. Couto.
Giving the sequence of events, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese spokesperson Fr. Savarimuthu Sankar said: “We are not sure of how exactly the fire started in the premises. The church guard was the first to detect the fire and he immediately alerted the fire authorities. However, before the fire could be doused, extensive damage had already been caused.”
The Catholic Church is located between a temple, a community hall and an Orthodox Church, none of which has been affected by the fire.
“We have been told by the church authorities that they suspected ‘mischief’. The church has suffered extensive damage, though there has been no damage to the exterior. The police were alerted about the incident a little after 7 a.m. and we are looking into the matter. We have called our forensic team for lifting samples,’’ said a senior police officer.
Meanwhile, Laxman, the guard at the cemetery located opposite the church who made the first call to the fire department, said: “I heard one of the guards from the church screaming and rushing out. We immediately called up the fire department. I don’t know how the place caught fire.”
Parishioner Ms. Neena Nair said: “We are worried and anxious. Ours is a peaceful community and we have never had any violent incidents. This incident is terribly unsettling.”