A cross alongside a road commonly seen in Goa. Many such crosses were destroyed in a spate of vandalism. (Photo by Bosco de Souza Eremita)
Police in the western Indian state Goa have arrested a mentally unstable person for the destruction of numerous crosses, following a probe that a church team described as "scripted."
Police arrested Francis Xavier Pereira, 55, saying he is "a radicalized former convict" and since 2003 has vandalized some 150 religious structures to "free trapped souls." Police said the suspect is mentally unstable and was "seeking publicity" through vandalism.
However, a church-initiated fact finding team studying the vandalism rejected police claims. The police are following "a familiar script" that is being followed across the country "to pacify civil society and affected communities and divert attention from the actual perpetrators," according to a Goa archdiocesan statement released July 15.
Some 50 crosses have been destroyed since June in Catholic-stronghold areas in the southern part of Goa. Church leaders suspect that it was a crime to divide Christians and Hindus in the state, where the government is run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.
The latest incident was on July 10 when some some 40 crosses were destroyed at a Catholic cemetery. It was the largest single act of destruction, with police claiming that some heavy machinery was used to destroy and even dig up graves.
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