The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in India has issued notices to the Secretary, Union Home Ministry, Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi calling for detailed reports including the status of investigation into allegations of desecration of the sanctity of the St. Alphonsa’s Church, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi in the early hours of the 2nd February, 2015. They have been given ten days time to respond.
The Commission intervened in the matter after taking suo motu cognizance of electronic media reports regarding the incident of breaking open the doors of St. Alphonsa’s Church and defiling of the place of worship and the objects held sacred.
It also received a telephonic information from Manoj V. George, Advocate alleging that in spite of a formal written complaint by Fr. Vincent Salvatore, Parish Priest, the police was not taking necessary and appropriate action by registering a proper report and commencing effective investigation.
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The Commission has observed in its notice that “since the incident involves breaking open the door of a Christian Church and defiling of the place of worship and the objects held sacred by the faithful of the Church and since the intention of the offenders appears to be to insult a particular religion and to outrage the religious feelings and to insult their religious beliefs and since the incident is likely to promote disharmony, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the ground of religion, the matter involves serious issues relating to violation of human rights and requires the intervention of the Commission to ensure that prompt, efficient and impartial investigation is conducted by the police and the culprits are booked at the earliest to restore the confidence and sense of security of the religious minority and to protect their freedom of religion.”
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Earlier, the NHRC Member, Justice Cyriac Joseph, accompanied by some officers, visited the Church on Monday. Fr. Vincent explained to the NHRC team, the nature and the extent of damage caused to the Church.
According to him, the miscreants entered the Church by breaking open the front main door. The tabernacle on the main altar directly below the main crucifix was opened and the Chalice and the Monstrance were removed from the tabernacle and the Holy Communion Hosts were thrown around the place. The adjacent room called the Sacristy in which vestements / clothing and valuable articles like Chalice were kept was ransacked.
He alleged that the intention of the miscreants was not to commit theft or burglary, as neither the money kept in three offering boxes nor any valuable objects were taken away, but to desecrate the sanctity of the Church and to create a sense of insecurity in the minds of religious minority.
He also expressed the apprehension that there was an attempt to downplay the incident as mere a theft or a burglary.
However, the police officers, present on the spot, during the visit of the Member, denied the allegation and said that the report had already been registered showing the offence as theft or burglary.