Outside the police headquarters in New Delhi, hundreds of people sing hymns.
They are on a sit-in protest against the burning of St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church.
Sushil Kumar is among the protesters.
“The church smells of kerosene even now, the oil canisters are still there, it’s clear that some used kerosene to set fire to the building but police are saying that it was an accident. He may think we are a minority and he can suppress the fact and get away with it.”
The fire destroyed the entire interior of one of New Dehli’s largest churches.
The government has set up a special police panel and is urging claim till their findings are released.
Samvid Patra is spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
“This is a matter of grave concern but let us not jump on speculative issues before the report of the investigation is submitted I do not discount the fact that there might have been a conspiracy here and if there was a conspiracy the Investigators would definitely smell into it and the conspirators would be brought to book but before that saying that this is probably an attempt to polarize and there are political connotations to it, I would say it is far reaching and we should refrain from making such in-general statements.”
But the Christian community says the case is not an isolated one.
John Dayal is General Secretary of the All India Christian Council.
“We will be blind if we see all these things in isolation. There’s a massive fire and it’s raging not only in the church but all over the country. What’s happened in Delhi is just a climax of what has been going on in state after state for months now, the community is under tremendous pressure.”
Christian missionaries have been accused of forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity. It’s something they deny doing.
In the central state of Chhattisgarh, a Hindu fundamentalist group Vishva Hindu Parishad or VHP recently issued a notice Telling Christian schools to put up statues of Hindu goddesses.
Tens of thousands of students many of them non-Christians study in missionary schools in the state.
Suresh Yadav is a leader of the VHP.
“If they can have the statue of Mary why can’t they have the statues of our goddesses, particularly the Saraswati which is the goddess of knowledge in Hindu culture.
Shabnam Hashmi is Managing Trustee of the Act Now for Harmony and Democracy or ANHAD.
His group recently released a report documenting more than 600 communal attacks against Muslims and Christians since the current government came into power in May this year
“In the case of Christians, the churches have been demolished or burned, the priests are being beaten up and sometimes even killed, prayer meetings where the community gathers in large numbers are being attacked and all these incidents are on the rise across the country.
Hashmi argues that they have support from powerful figures in the government.
“Hate speech is getting out of control, the leaders of the ruling party say one thing and their supporters on the ground indulge in violence and there’s no action against them which makes it clear that there’s a mutual understanding and things are happening according to a strategy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi maintains that his government is about economic development for all Indians.
But his party’s workers including some MP’s and even ministers have been accuse of hate speech.
Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti recently implied that non-Hindus bastards at a public meeting while asking her supporters to elect BJP candidates in the coming Delhi Assembly elections.
She said those who believe in Hindu god Ram are his children, all others are of illegitimate children.
Minority group say Prime Minister’s silence on the issue is reinforcing his and the party’s negative image.
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