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Indian Christians cry 'red herring' over church attack arrest

Priests skeptical that the vandalism was not religiously motivated, call for independent investigation

Ritu Sharma, Delhi

Ritu Sharma, Delhi

Published: April 27, 2015 09:21 AM GMT

Updated: April 29, 2015 10:50 PM GMT

Indian Christians cry 'red herring' over church attack arrest

Police have arrested one man in connection with a Catholic church attack earlier this month in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. But the official claim that the motive was personal and not related to religion has drawn ire from the Christian community and a call for an independent probe.  

A Muslim youth named Haider was arrested on April 24 for attacking the St Mary’s Church in Agra district in the early hours of April 16; officials say he was under the influence of drugs.

Two statues were damaged and a dog leash was found around the neck of a statue of Mary. Vehicles parked at the church were also damaged.

Rajesh Modak, senior superintendent of police, told ucanews.com that Haider, a rickshaw puller, confessed to the crime. Modak said Haider attacked the church in a fit of rage after he was unable to meet a girl he was in love with.

“He was in love with a girl who used to come to the church on Saturday and for the last few days, he was not able to meet her. So out of anger, he committed the crime,” Modak said, adding that the faith of the girl is not known.

Local media reports suggested that the girl is a Christian.

Three others detained in connection with the crime have been released after questioning.

However, the Christian community has questioned the official explanation and demanded a thorough investigation.

“It is not possible that he would have done all the damage alone. The police version is not convincing. We want a separate independent inquiry into the matter,” Fr Savarimuthu Shankar, spokesperson of the Delhi archdiocese, told ucanews.com.

He and others accuse police of attempting to whitewash what they say is evidently part of a string of religious confrontations.

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Since December, at least six churches in Delhi have been vandalized. Separately, a number of individuals have been attacked, including an elderly nun who was gang-raped in March.

Fr Dominic Emmanuel, a Christian leader, said that he, too, was skeptical of the official explanation.

Terming the police version “doubtful”, the priest said that a free and fair probe is needed into the matter.

Over a hundred Christian schools in 10 districts around state capital Lucknow closed their doors last Thursday in a protest called by the Uttar Pradesh Masihi (Christian) Association against the Agra church attack.

Sikh and Muslim leaders along with several churches, including the Methodist Church, Church of North India and Assembly of God Church joined the protest.

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