Members of the Christian community came out in droves on the eve of elections in the national capital to protest against the recent spate of attacks on churches. Speaking to the media, prominent members of the Christian community in the city said that five attacks on churches in Delhi in the past two months have been driven by rising religious intolerance. The latest incident, a break-in at St Alphonsa’s church in South Delhi on Monday, prompted the community to gather near the residence of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
These peaceful protesters called on the Centre to investigate these attacks. The response to these peaceful protests by the Delhi police was unsavoury, with dozens detained under Section 144 of the CrPC. With elections in Delhi on the horizon, however, Home Minister Rajnath Singh met leaders from the community and directed police in the national capital to ensure greater security of churches and other places of worship, besides an impartial inquiry in the matter.
In fact before the central government stepped in, the National Human Rights Commission had issued notices to the Home Ministry, Delhi government and Delhi police, seeking status reports on the investigation into the vandalism of a church in South Delhi. In its directive, the NHRC had observed that the intention of the offenders ‘appears to be to insult a particular religion and promote disharmony’. In spite of a formal complaint by the church priest, the police had not taken necessary action by registering a proper First Information Report, the directive added.
The vandalising of the church in South Delhi does not seem like an isolated incident. It was the fifth such act of vandalism over the last two months. It is true that no BJP or Sangh Parivar activists has been implicated in these attacks. The BJP has not publicly campaigned against churches in Delhi, as it had, against the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. What is not in doubt, however, is that these acts of vandalism have emanated from the BJP and the Sangh Parivar’s style of politics over many months. Ever since the present dispensation took office in New Delhi, members of its own party and the Sangh Parivar have targeted Christians and Muslims, accusing both communities of forcibly converting Hindus and indulging in a sinister conspiracy to change the demographics of the nation.
Consequently, attempts have been made to vitiate the communal atmosphere before elections, a strategy often used by the party. The capital has witnessed five attacks on churches in the last two months but despite the home ministry’s intervention, little has been done to prevent or solve the cases. Conspiracy theory or not, something does seem terribly amiss.