NEW DELHI: A major fire broke out at the St Sebastian’s Church in Dilshad Garden area of the national capital on Monday, with priests alleging foul play behind the incident.
All three political parties - the AAP, the BJP and the Congress - condemned the incident and demanded a time-bound and impartial investigation.
BJP local legislator Jitender Singh Shunty visited the church and said he had inspected the scene and was convinced it was “a deliberate” act. “They have destroyed each and every item, taking enough time. Whoever has done it should be arrested,” Shunty said.
Similarly, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal went to the church and expressed his unhappiness at the way the city police has handled the case so far.
After visiting the church, Congress state president Arvinder Singh Lovely wrote a letter to Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, expressing his deep concern at the incident, and requested him to immediately visit the affected church, and grant financial compensation for its re-construction. “The incident took place at around 5.26 am. The fire tenders’ vehicles rushed to the spot and doused the flames. As soon as we received a call, four fire tender vehicles were dispatched. The fire was completely extinguished at 8 am,” said a Delhi Fire Services official.
While the fire engulfed the entire church, a small crowd congregated on the road prayed for peace and communal harmony. Later they marched to the local police station and staged a sit-in to protest the police’s alleged slackness in dealing with the case.
They also staged a demonstration at the intersection near the Guru Teg Bahadur Singh Hospital. The protest ended after a senior police officer assured them of proper investigation and sent a forensic team to probe the fire.
Father Stanley Kozhichira told Express, “The fire has completely charred the sanctuary, sacristy and the first floor balcony. All the benches and entire church from inside has turned into ashes.” He said they found kerosene in the church’s attic and suspected that someone might have used inflammable material to set fire to the church. “A natural fire would not be like this,” he asserted.