Dilshad Garden church set on fire, Christian community says not an accident

Delhi Archbishop writes to PM, alleging pre-election mischief

By: Press Trust of India Written by Sarah Hafeez | New Delhi | Updated: December 2, 2014 1:43:25 pm
The alter of the St Sebastian Church was completely gutted on Monday. (Source: Express photo by Ravi Kanojia) The alter of the St Sebastian Church was completely gutted on Monday. (Source: Express photo by Ravi Kanojia)

It’s East Delhi again. There is a minority place of worship in question. And again there are allegations of mischief.

A fire broke out in a church in Northeast Delhi’s Dilshad Garden on Monday morning. Police have registered a case under IPC Section 436 (arson) following allegations by parish members that the fire was not accidental.

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“A case has been registered. A forensic team went to St Sebastian Catholic Church in Dilshad Garden and collected two samples. The fire department is also preparing a report. Only after receiving these reports that we will able to ascertain the exact cause of the fire,” a police officer said.

People protest outside the Delhi Police headquarters at ITO, New Delhi. (Source: Krishna Vamsi) People protest outside the Delhi Police headquarters at ITO, New Delhi. (Source: Krishna Vamsi)

Fire control room said they received a call around 7.26 am on Monday that a fire had broken out at the church. Four fire tenders were rushed to the spot and took around two hours to douse the flames. No casualties were reported as no one was present in the church except for the guard who spotted the fire and informed police.

Police said besides arson, they are looking at the possibility of a short circuit. The church was built in 2001.

Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling on him to order a judicial enquiry into the fire. Couto said members of the Christian community will protest at the Delhi Police commissioner’s office on Tuesday morning to highlight “attempts to polarise the people in Delhi state” ahead of Assembly elections”.

CHURCH1 People shout slogans and raise banners at ITO, Police headquarters. (Source: Krishna Vamsi)

He said the “arson” was an act of “sacrilege and hate” against the community and its faith and it was surprising that such an act could take place in Delhi, which is just recovering from a series of communal incidents”.

Father Mathew Koyickal, chancellor (Archdiocese of Delhi) alleged that “someone deliberately set fire to the church as there is a strong smell of kerosene in the air”. The first floor was gutted, and the holy books and the alter were reduced to ash.

He said residents who had gathered outside the church became restive when they saw no police officers present at the site.

Representative of church at the protest site. (Source: Krishna Vamsi) Representative of church at the protest site. (Source: Krishna Vamsi)

A local resident, Thomas Antony,  said: “The community feels it looks like a case of arson. There are about 600 families in Dilshad Garden which come under the church’s parish. The church shares its boundary wall with a mandir. But no incidents of violence have been reported recently. We do not know why anyone wants to destroy our peace.

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