Since early April, 34-year-old Jeet Singh has been starting his Sundays with an unusual routine — he attends mass at St Alphonsa’s Church in South Delhi, often with his young son.
But unlike most worshippers, the Delhi Police sub-inspector’s eyes are rarely on the altar or shut in prayer, they are scanning the crowd, looking for any clue that might lead to those who vandalised the church in Vasant Kunj in an attack that hit the headlines in February.
Singh is part of a Special Investigation Team of 24, who have been tasked with hunting down those who attackedSt Alphonsa’s Church, Holy Child Auxilium School in Vasant Vihar and St Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden — of at least six such incidents in the capital over the last few months, these three remain unsolved.
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The idea to form such a team, said a senior police officer, was inspired by the Bollywood spy thriller Baby, which was released in January and shows a group of intelligence officials being deployed in public places to gather clues to bust a terror plot.
Like the unit led by hero Akshay Kumar in Baby, members of the Delhi Police team are dressed in plainclothes and maintain “round-the-clock surveillance” to keep a track of “suspicious movements”.
“They have been attending regular prayers in different teams,” the officer said.
“Criminals have changed their modus operandi. So now, we too think and work like them. In this case, we had to first change our looks as many are alerted when they see men in khaki,” he added.
While the attacks on the two churches were widely condemned, the break-in at the school led to a high-profile visit by its former student and current HRD Minister Smriti Irani followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concern about the incident to Delhi Police chief B S Bassi.
According to sources, the Prime Minister’s Office is regularly briefed on the progress of this investigation.
The team, meanwhile, is also scanning the records of all those arrested in burglary cases over the past 20 years and checking the current status of all known and suspected criminals in the area.
At the school, the suspects had stolen some money, damaged CCTV cameras and ransacked parts of the building.
The team of sleuths is headed by the Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Prem Nath and includes Inspector Rajendra Singh, who was earlier involved in successful investigations in the murder of TV journalist Soumya Vishwanathan and the December 16 gangrape case.
Delhi Police have also announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for the arrest of any of the accused and sent fingerprints from the site and other evidence to crime units in other states as well.