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2 held for attack on Christians in India’s capital

Four days after attack, a police force remains deployed outside the prayer hall in Delhi to check further violence
Christians, including priests, take part in a candlelight march for peace and harmony at St Paul's Church in Amritsar on Sept 3, 2022, following an incident in which four masked men allegedly vandalized a statue inside the church

Christians, including priests, take part in a candlelight march for peace and harmony at St Paul's Church in Amritsar on Sept 3, 2022, following an incident in which four masked men allegedly vandalized a statue inside the church. (Photo: AFP / UNAN files)

Published: August 23, 2023 10:36 AM GMT
Updated: August 23, 2023 11:24 AM GMT

Two people have been arrested in connection with the Aug. 20 attack on a Christian prayer service in India’s national capital.

“Police told me that they have arrested two people in connection with the attack on our church,” Pastor Satpal Bhati, whose prayer service was targeted by a violent mob in East Delhi, told UCA News on Aug. 23.

The pastor, who runs the Siyyon Prathna Bhawan, an independent Protestant Church in Delhi’s Tahirpur area, said he visited the police station on Aug. 22 after being called for further investigation.

The district administration has deployed police forces outside the church to check further violence, he added.

Pastor Bhati said that the district magistrate’s office has acknowledged that two women were injured when the mob targeted the prayer service. "In fact, three women and two men were hurt," he said.

The mob, reported to be affiliated with a hardline Hindu outfit, later protested outside the police station, saying the Christian group was engaged in religious conversion.

“We are worried that if the mob can protest outside the police station without fear, I am afraid they could do anything in the area,” Bhati said.

According to media reports, Christians were attacked by members of the Bajrang Dal (Brigade of Lord Hanuman), a sister organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Nearly 100 armed men were also carrying loudspeakers when they entered the assembly hall, the reports said. 

The mob, according to the police, damaged church properties and shouted provocative slogans inside it. 

However, Vinod Bansal, national spokesperson of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) said in a statement on Aug. 22 that “it was not a church but a house."

"The members of the Bajrang Dal were distributing raksha sutras (security threads) in the locality when they encountered the prayer meeting,” the statement claimed.

Bansal said that like other parts of the country, Delhi is also witnessing a rising number of conversion cases, which go unchecked due to the lack of a dedicated law to prevent them.

Nearly 11 Indian states, most of them ruled by the pro-Hindu party of Modi, have enacted a sweeping anti-conversion law, which is often used to target Christians.

Earlier, the BJP ruled the Delhi state. But, the state has been led by the Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal since 2018. 

However, law and order in the state are handled by the Delhi police, which reports to the federal government headed by Modi.

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