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Christians protest Delhi blaze, demand protection for churches
Wednesday December 3, 2014 6:22 AM, IANS

Thousands of Christians Tuesday protested outside the Delhi Police headquarters demanding security for churches and immediate probe into a mysterious fire that gutted a Catholic church in the city. The Delhi Police Crime Branch has set up a special team to investigate the matter.

Delhi Church blaze

Over 5,000 people, including Catholics, Protestants, Baptists and Methodists, gathered in front of the police headquarters at the busy ITO crossing in central Delhi around 10 a.m.

They raised slogans and asked for an immediate high-level inquiry into the Monday morning fire at the Saint Sebastian's Church in east Delhi's Dilshad Garden area.

The case has been transferred to the Delhi Police Crime Branch, which has set up a Special Investigation Team to probe the incident, said a police official.

The caretakers of the church have alleged the involvement of some unidentified attackers.

"We want a judicial probe into the matter, and demand that security be given to every church, and the accused be arrested," Father Mathew Koyickal told IANS.

The protesters, including women and children, raised slogans of "We want justice" and held up placards with messages like "Pray and let others pray".

Delhi diocese Archbishop Anil Couto has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding a judicial inquiry into the fire. He said Home Minister Rajnath Singh has given him time Wednesday for a meeting.

"We will put our demands before the home minister. Hope he fulfills them," he told IANS.

The protesters, who also demanded security for Delhi's churches, were reportedly assured by police that their demands would be met.

Special Commissioner of Police Deepak Mishra, accompanied by other senior officials, assured the protesters that a proper inquiry will be conducted.

He assured the people of deployment of police at every Delhi church function.

The protest, which lasted two hours, led police to stop traffic outside the police headquarters, leading to traffic snarls on arterial roads nearby.

The protesters also tried to enter the police headquarters to meet Commissioner of Police B.S. Bassi, but were prevented.

Later, a delegation met the police chief, who assured them of a speedy probe.

Alleging police inaction, Anita Benjamin, spokesperson of the Rastriya Isai Mahasangh, told IANS that police wasted a lot of time in gathering evidence.

She said the Christian community was scared and they wanted a quick probe into the incident.

"The Delhi Police officials who reached the church to assess the situation, without even initial investigation, said the fire appeared to be a case of electrical short-circuit," she said.

Prominent community leaders, including former Church of North India (CNI) bishop Karam Masih and civil rights activist John Dayal, participated in the protest.

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