Skepticism over official claim that Haryana vandals who destroyed a statue of Jesus on Christmas night were drunk
Christian leaders in India have sought an impartial probe into the destruction of a century-old statue of Jesus Christ at a British-era Catholic church in Ambala in the northern state of Haryana.
Two men were seen on CCTV footage scaling the church compound on Christmas night and destroying the statue after breaking open the casket.
Police arrested two suspects after three days and a court remanded them into judicial custody. But church leaders suspect the case may get diluted with the investigating officer saying the suspected vandals were drunk.
“The police officers tasked with the investigation is siding with the suspects and trying to dilute the crime on the plea that they acted under the influence of liquor,” said Father Patras Mundu, parish priest of the Holy Redeemer Church in Ambala Cantonment in the Diocese of Simla-Chandigarh.
The police did not charge the arrested suspects for violating the curfew orders imposed in the city, he said, adding that one of the arrested is a government employee and hence familiar with the laws of the land.
“If we let them go scot-free, then the day is not very far for anybody to come and attack us,” the priest added.
We are also going to approach the state’s home minister and if required we will not hesitate to move the higher courts to seek justice
The Redemptorist priest told UCA News on Jan. 5 that the incident had occurred soon after the midnight Mass and appeared well orchestrated, with the suspects, as seen on CCTV footage, “taking instructions from someone over their cellphones and acting upon them.”
Father Antony Chacko, the assistant parish priest, said the two men took over an hour to destroy the Jesus statue and decorations inside the church compound. “One of them is even seen urinating in front of one of the church doors while the act is being shot by his fellow suspect, maybe to show someone else,” he added.
Father Chacko said they had called on the top police official for the district on Jan. 4 demanding a “thorough and impartial probe” into the incident. They have also pressed a legal team to oppose the application for bail filed by the suspects.
“We are also going to approach the state’s home minister and if required we will not hesitate to move the higher courts to seek justice,” said Father Mundu.
Christian leaders suspect the role of members of Hindu nationalist groups in the incident as elsewhere in the country.
Data released recently by the United Christian Forum showed the year 2021 was one of the worst years for Indian Christians as they faced persecution across the country.
As many as 486 incidents of violent attacks on the minority community and its institutions were reported in the previous year, the highest since the 328 reported in 2019.
They were also far more widespread than previously recorded, with incidents reported in 20 states and two union territories, said the report.
The past two months have witnessed over 100 incidents terrifying Christians during the Christmas season.
Christians make up only 2.3 percent of the 1.3 billion population in India, where 80 percent are Hindus.