Chhattisgarh church attack: BJP leader among five arrested, three FIRs registered

Chhattisgarh police on Tuesday arrested five people, including a local BJP leader, in connection with the Monday’s attack on a church inside a school premises and assault on police personnel. In all, police have registered three FIRs against unidentified persons for rioting, assaulting police personnel, and vandalising the church. Narayanpur SP Sadanand Kumar had suffered a head injury in the attack on the church on Monday.

Those arrested have been identified as BJP leader Rupsai Salam, 55, Pawankumar Nag, 24, Atul Netam, 24, Ankit Nandi, 31, and Domendra Yadav, 21. Except for Salam, who is from Remawand in Narayanpur, the rest are residents of Bakhrupara.

On Monday afternoon, after holding a meeting to discuss religious conversions in Narayanpur, which is around 242 km from Raipur, a mob of tribal people barged into Viswadeepti School premises and vandalised a church. A police team of 6-7 police personnel, including the SP, while trying to stop them suffered minor injuries.

The FIRs have been registered under different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder on a government servant, assault on government servants, rioting, unlawful assembly, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, criminal intimidation, deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class.The FIRs have been registered under Indian Penal Code Sections 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 153 (a) (promoting enmity between different groups), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings).

Earlier in the day, unruly scenes were witnessed in the state Assembly as BJP legislators accused the government of turning a blind eye to the religious conversions in the state. They also took exception to party functionaries being held responsible for the Narayanpur violence. As the Opposition members resorted to sloganeering in the well of the House and didn’t relent despite repeated requests, they were suspended for a brief period.

The BJP members also submitted a representation in the Assembly over religious conversions in tribal areas. “Poor and gullible tribals are being tempted with money, service and education and being converted under the protection of government. This is a conspiracy by the government and people of Bastar region and Surguja are up in arms.

The tribals who are protesting these conversions were beaten up by Christian missionaries and police took no action. If the police had acted in time this incident [Narayanpur] would not have occurred,” read the representation.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the police stopped two BJP MPs Santosh Pandey and Mohan Mandavi and MLA Shivratan Sharma from entering Narayanpur citing security reasons.

“The Congress government has been behaving like dictator and murdering democracy,” BJP’s Chhattisgarh unit chief spokesperson Ajay Chandrakar told the press.“Stopping our leaders from going to Narayanpur clearly indicates that those who are involved in religious conversion have protection of Congress.”

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