Four masked men broke into a church in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district, vandalised it and fled after setting the pastor’s car on fire, police on Wednesday said. Terming the incident as “unpardonable”, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann directed the state police chief to get it probed.
As per the visuals caught on CCTV cameras installed at the church, the intruders, late on Tuesday night, took the watchman hostage at gunpoint and tied his hands. They then vandalised two idols in the church, located in Takkarpura village near Patti town in the border district and while leaving, set the pastor’s car on fire.
Police said the CCTV footage showed two of the masked men vandalising the idols.
Members of the Christian community held a protest, blocking several roads and demanding immediate arrest of the accused. They also raised anti-government slogans.
Senior officials including Deputy Commissioner Munish Kumar, SDM Rajesh Kumar, IG PK Yadav, SSP Ranjit Singh Dhillon, and DSP Satnam Singh reached the spot and pacified the protesters.
SSP Dhillon assured them that the culprits will be arrested soon. “It is a conspiracy by some mischievous elements who wanted to disturb the peace in the state. We have taken stock of the situation and are investigating the matter. We will soon catch those behind this incident,” the SSP said.
The protesters called off the dharna on the call of Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gracias who reached there from Jalandhar.
Police personnel in large numbers have been deployed in the area.
Station House Officer (Patti Sadar) Sukhbir Singh said a case has been registered under sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage reli¬gious feelings) and 452 (house trespass) of the Indian Penal Code.
Meanwhile, CM Mann said, “This is a highly condemnable incident and severest action must be taken against the perpetrators of this heinous crime”.
He said he has directed DGP to probe the “unpardonable” incident. “It is a handiwork of the forces inimical to the peace, prosperity and progress of the state,” he said, adding the incident was aimed at vitiating the peaceful atmosphere in the state and derailing “communal harmony and brotherhood”. Mann said the state government will not allow any such attempt to succeed, and assured strict punitive action to deter others from committing similar crimes. “The government will leave no stone unturned to put the perpetrators of this heinous crime behind bars,” he said.
Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring said such incidents are deliberate attempts by some mischievous elements to divide people.
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Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal too condemned the vandalism and demanded an exemplary punishment for the perpetrators of the heinous crime. “In line with the teachings of Guru Sahiban, I appeal to everyone to show restraint & respect all religions,” he added.
The incident comes a day after Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Harpreet Singh and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Harjinder Singh Dhami condemned alleged efforts by “some so-called Christian missionaries” to convert people.