No clue yet in church attack case

March 23, 2015 08:09 pm | Updated April 02, 2016 11:49 am IST - Mumbai

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis addressing a press conference. File photo: Vivek Bendre

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis addressing a press conference. File photo: Vivek Bendre

More than two days after the attack on a church in Navi Mumbai, the police are continuing to grope in the dark.

Poor lighting in the vicinity of Saint George Church in Panvel area means the CCTV footage available has not been of much help to the investigators. The attack was carried out by three men who arrived on a motorcycle in the early hours of March 21. Two of them hurled stones at the church, damaging a glass cabinet that housed the statue of Saint George.

“All we have been able to gather on the basis of the footage is the exact number of attackers. It happened late at night and the area wasn’t very well lit,” said Assistant Police Commissioner of Navi Mumbai Police S.B. Suryavanshi. “The suspects are not clearly visible. Neither is the motorcycle’s make or registration number. In such a scenario, we are banking on local intelligence.”

Mr. Suryavanshi said additional security had been deployed in all the 13 churches in the sub-division under his charge.

“We have told the authorities that CCTVs must be placed outside the churches and private security guards hired to provide an extra layer of security,” he told The Hindu on Monday evening.

Meanwhile, the Christian community in this otherwise communally peaceful area are still in a state of shock. “This is the first time a church has been attacked in Navi Mumbai,” Sabu Daniel, NCP Corporator from Navi Mumbai, told The Hindu .

Navi Mumbai has a sizeable Christian population. The St. George Church belongs to the Syro-Malabar Diocese, a predominantly Kerala Christian community. “The government should act against the culprits within ten days. Otherwise, we will launch agitations across Maharashtra,” Mr. Daniel said.

Dr. Abraham Mathai, former Maharashtra Minorities Commission member and president of Indian Christian Voice, visited the St. George Church along with Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner K.L. Prasad, who returned from leave in the wake of the incident.

A delegation of National Christian Council led by BJP MLA Ashish Shelar met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday. Mr. Fadnavis told the delegation that he had issued instructions to the police to nab the culprits at the earliest.

He also assured the community that he would instruct all municipal corporations in the State to identify land for Christian burial grounds, a long pending demand of the community.

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