Protest outside Delhi Police HQ over Tahirpur church blaze

New Delhi: Scores of members of the Christian community and social activists staged a protest outside the Delhi Police headquarters here this morning over alleged police inaction in the case of the fire which yesterday gutted a church in northeast Delhi's Tahirpur area.

The protesters alleged lapses in duty by police and said that a lot of time was lost and possible evidence destroyed before the law and order personnel finally reached the spot. "We want a judicial inquiry into the fire at the church as police have not taken any action in this regard so far," said Father Stanley Kozhichira, media director of the Delhi archdiocese.

A major traffic jam was caused due to the protest at the ITO junction during the morning rush hours. The protesters tried to enter the police headquarter to meet the police commissioner but were prevented from doing so. Later, a delegation of the protesters met city police chief BS Bassi and put forward their demands before him with the latter assuring them of a speedy probe in the case.

Kozhichira said they want the local SHO to be transferred as he had failed to prevent the incident. As to the fire itself, Kozhichira said it seems to be a deliberate act as they could smell kerosene on the spot.

A substantial portion of the church was gutted in the fire which broke out yesterday on its premises. Police have registered a case in the matter under Section 436 (mischief) of IPC upon a complaint from the church authorities. Samples were collected from the spot by the Fire Department and an FSL team to ascertain the cause behind the blaze, police said.

"We have received a complaint in this regard following which we have registered an FIR and further investigations are underway," a senior police official had said. Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto had yesterday asked the Centre to order a judicial inquiry into the fire.

He has sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh in that regard.

According to the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, the entire interior of the church, including the Altar, the Holy Bible and Cross, were reduced to ashes in the blaze. The church, constructed in 2001, is among the biggest churches in east Delhi. It was active till Sunday night because of religious ceremonies for Catholic children receiving their first Holy Communion.

Among those who visited the church yesterday following the fire were former Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and some Members of Parliament and former MLAs of the area.

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