Delhi police announce special investigation of Catholic church burning

Say all facts will ‘come out in the open’ as thousands of protesters barricade capital headquarters.

Christian demonstrators demand swift justice in front of Delhi Police Headquarters on Tuesday for the burning of a Catholic church

New Delhi: Police in the capital announced a special investigation on Tuesday of a fire that broke out in a Catholic church, damaging the interior and leading to fears that the blaze was intentionally set.

The decision followed two days of protests, with more than 5,000 Christians gathering in front of Delhi Police Headquarters to demand justice for what they have called a targeted attack.

Deepak Mishra, additional commissioner of police for law and order, told the protesters that in addition to the special investigation, which aims to expedite the discovery of the cause of the fire and to identify any suspects, additional security would be given to churches in the capital ahead of the coming Christmas holiday.

Kapil Kumar, the police officer heading the investigation, told protesters that officials have ruled out the possibility of a communal attack on the church.

“Everything will come out in the open once the investigation is complete. The area is totally calm. There is no fear of any communal tension in the area,” he told, adding that no arrests have been made.

The protesters, which included nuns and priests, held placards and demanded swift action by police to determine the cause of the fire and to arrest those responsible for the blaze, which destroyed the alter and much of Saint Sebastian’s interior but did not injure anyone.

“Two days have passed since the incident took place, and the police are still clueless as to who did the damage to the church,” protester Elvis Roger told on Tuesday.

Roshan Robert, another protester, said the incident had caused deep pain and anger among Christians in the capital.

“We want the culprits to get arrested as soon as possible. We had never expected antying of this extent to happen to the church.”

Robert Philip, the lone security guard at the church, said he discovered the fire in the early hours of Monday morning.

“I was going to the washroom at around 6:30am at the backside of the church and found smoke coming out of the dressing room of the priest,” he told on Tuesday.

“I quickly opened the lock of the church and then the door of the dressing room.”

The guard said flames poured out of the room as soon as he opened the door. “I rushed for help and in the meantime everything was taken over by fire.”

As news of the fire spread, priests and laypeople were quick to assert that the fire had been intentionally set. Initial reports by police that the fire started as the result of an electrical short circuit were quickly dismissed. Police have since retracted that assessment.

“The main electrical unit was working fine, and even the invertor was on,” said Father Anthony Francis, the parish priest in charge of Saint Sebastian’s.

Fr Francis said that he saw traces of kerosene at the church.

“Kerosene was used for the fire, as it formed a layer on the water used by the fire brigade to douse the flames. The forensic department has taken samples of the water for analysis,” he said, adding that kerosene bottles were also found on the first floor of the church.

Church officials have since rejected earlier claims that the fire was the result of communal tensions and have instead placed their suspicion on “anti-social elements outside the community”.

Fr Savari Muthu Sankar, spokesman for the Delhi archdiocese that has jurisdiction over the burned church, said a church delegation has met with the governor of New Delhi and submitted a memorandum demanding a judicial inquiry into the case.

The memorandum was also sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The delegation asked the administration to repair the church before Christmas so that its 800 families could celebrate midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.




  1. December 4, 2014 at 6:07 am

    A few facts have already emerged — why did the police and the fire brigade take so long to respond ???? why was there no coverage by T V channels ??? for more than 24 hours ???? —
    Christians are going through a period of trial !!!!!
    Did we not realise that this would happen when we voted ?????


    • Isaac Gomes said,

      December 6, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      It took time for the Police and the Fire Brigade to arrive because they do not know who their boss is as there is no government in Delhi now!

      It is elementary Watson. Didn’t we hear the buzz word “Paid Media”?



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