Bangalore, India — Church leaders criticized police manhandling of Christians who gathered Feb. 5 at the gate of Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi to protest recent attacks on churches.
"The people are angry, anguished and frustrated. Five churches have been attacked in Delhi in two months and yet, not a single arrest has been made so far," Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi told Catholic News Service Feb. 5.
"This is shocking. The government has done nothing to arrest those desecrated and attacked churches. On the contrary, the police is using force to silence our protests," he told CNS in Bangalore, where the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India was meeting.
Nearly 200 Christian protesters who had gathered at the gate of his cathedral in New Delhi were bundled into police buses and taken to the police station, Couto said.
Divine Word Fr. Dominic Emmanuel spoke to CNS about the incident.
"We had not moved from the cathedral gate when the police started swooping down on us," he told CNS from New Delhi.
"They heckled me and dragged (me) into the (police) bus. The police did not spare women and even nuns," he said.
Emmanuel was held for two hours at the police station near the cathedral.
Among those forcibly taken away from the cathedral gate were Fr. Susai Sebastian, vicar general of the Delhi archdiocese, and Catholic activist John Dayal. Protesters continued singing hymns and holding placards in the police buses.
In a statement after the arrests, the Delhi archdiocese cited five attacks on churches since Dec. 1. One church had its entire interior burned; other incidents included smashed windows, burned statues and desecration of the Eucharist.
"The (Christian) community has lost faith in Delhi police, which has failed to solve the conspiracy that has led to the vandalism, arson and desecration of churches," said the archdiocesan statement.