Youths vandalise church, thrash worshippers; five arrested

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A group of about 15-20 youths sporting saffron bands on their forehead and allegedly belonging to right wing Hindu outfit Bajrang Dal on Sunday barged into a church on the city's outskirts while prayers were underway and vandalised the premises and thrashed those present.

Raipur Additional Superintendent of Police Neeraj Chandrakar said five youths have been arrested in this connection.

The president of Chhattisgarh's Christian Forum Arun Pannalal alleged that the slogan-shouting attackers belonged to Bajrang Dal and that women and an infant were also not spared while the police in the state capital remained tight-lipped on their identity.

"Around 15-20 youths entered the church premises located at Kachna village while prayer was underway," Chandrakar told PTI.

They allegedly damaged chairs, fans and other articles in the premises and even beat up the people present, he said.

The accused were reportedly sporting saffron bands on their forehead, he said. They fled the spot when the police arrived, he added.

Based on the victims' complaint, a case has been registered under sections 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt), 295(injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class) and 147(rioting) of the IPC, he said.

Three motorcycles belonging to the accused were seized from the spot, he said, adding efforts are on to nab the miscreants.

Pannalal claimed that Sunday's incident was the fourth attack on a Christian place of worship in the past one month in the state.

"Around 15-20 men with saffron bands on their forehead entered the church while Sunday prayer was under way at around 12 PM, and started vandalising the premises and started breaking everything," Pannalal said and claimed that the "Bajrang Dal youth indulged in sloganeering and were raising Jai Shree Ram slogans"

"They started damaging chairs and fans. They did not spare women and even tore up their clothes. They also thrashed an infant," he said.

The assailants were heard accusing that people were being converted in the church, he said.

"A group of 40-50 people from downtrodden families in the village had set up the church under a tin shed, where they perform prayers every Sunday," he said, refuting the conversion charge.

He said, "We are thankful to the police that they reached immediately and took the necessary action."

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