Quick actions follow church attacks

Six arrested and bailed out in Madhya Pradesh

New Delhi: The governments of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra swung into action immediately after attacks on churches were reported from those two neighboring states.

In Maharashtra, western India, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis directed police to arrest within 48 hours the culprits who hurled stones at a Catholic church in Navi Mumbai on Saturday.

Police in Madhya Pradesh, central India, Monday arrested six people after activists of a Hindu fringe group were caught on camera vandalizing a church in Jabalpur town.

They were reportedly summoned by the police just after midnight on Sunday, but let off after they spent an hour at the police station.

The arrested men, including the chief of the group, were identified from CCTV footage and by tribals who were staying in the church at the time and were attacked.

CCTV footage showed the attackers smashing plant pots, breaking down doors and shattering windows in the grounds of the cathedral late on Friday.

The right-wing Hindu Dharma Sena group had accused the church of converting around 200 people from local tribal groups to Christianity, although it denies causing any damage to church property.

According to church authorities, the activists also attacked some 200 tribals who had come for a three-day Bible convention and were sleeping in a hall in the cathedral.

The church has denied the allegation that it was converting the tribals. It claims that those who attended the convention were Christians.

The latest attack comes at a time of heightened sensitivity over religious freedom in India, where churches and a Christian school have been attacked in recent months.

A 70-year-old nun was raped at a convent school in West Bengal last week, triggering protests across the country.

Federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Monday that he would go to any extent to protect minorities. “I will do everything to end the sense of insecurity prevailing among minorities,” he added

Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month pledged to crack down on religious violence and ensure freedom of worship for all faiths.

Maharashtra chief minister’s assurance came after a delegation of various Christian organizations, led by Ashish Shelar from Bandra (West), called on him at Vidhan Bhavan on Monday afternoon.

“The chief minister assured the delegation that culprits would be nabbed within 48 hours,” said Shelar, who is also the city unit chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules both the states as well as heads the federal coalition government.

The delegation comprised representatives of the National Christian Council of India, Mumbai Catholic Sabha and United Christian Council of Mumbai.

The incident had occurred in the wee hours of Saturday when two masked persons riding pillion on a motorcycle hurled stones at the St George Catholic church located near a bridge in New Panvel area.

In the incident, the covering glass outside the statue of St George got damaged.

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