A group of more than 15 men allegedly vandalised a prayer hall that served as a church and manhandled the congregants inside at Kachna village on the outskirts of Raipur Sunday. The incident happened at the time a prayer meeting was in progress.
Locals, who did not want to be identified, said the men came on motorcycles and shouted slogans like “Jai Shri Ram”, while alleging religious conversions.
Father Sebastian Poomattam, vicar-general of Raipur Diocese, told ucanews.com that “around 20 [attackers] on 10 motorbikes shouting jai shri ram (a slogan glorifying a Hindu God) stormed a Pentecostal prayer hall at Kachana.”
Six people were injured in the incident in which about 15 people on motorbikes stormed the church in Kachna village in Raipur, the state capital March 6.
Police spokesman Neeraj Chandrakar confirmed the arrests and described the incident as a clash between the two parties.
Police told The Indian Express that the matter stemmed from an issue over the hall being allegedly built on encroached land. While claiming that the same dispute escalated Sunday, they added that a case was registered and three people detained. Senior officials said the incident took place around 11 am.
“There are different versions on the number of people that came. But there was an argument when they entered. They broke some chairs and fans, and in the melee six people got minor injuries, two of them women. There were around 40 people inside when the group came. The police, however, arrived quickly, and the group fled…We have recovered three motorcycles, which we are using to track the accused,” said Neeraj Chandrakar, ASP (City).
“The major cause for the disagreement is the encroachment of land, which has been a matter of fierce debate in the village for the past two years. The local Sahu Samaj has been protesting against the land being encroached upon and this prayer hall being built. Even last week, there was a disagreement about the hall. However, the police acted swiftly and three people were detained,” said G P Singh, IGP.
The Christian community in the area, however, claimed that the incident was part of an organized attack on the church, with the tacit support of the state administration.
A case against unknown persons under sections 147 (rioting), 452 (house trespass after preparation for hurt), 295(defiling a place of worship) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) was registered.