New Delhi: A substantial part of a catholic church in northeast Delhi's Tahirpur area was gutted when a fire broke out at its premises on Monday morning with the Christian community suspecting foul play in the incident.
Police have registered a case under section 436 IPC (Mischief) on the complaint of the church authorities.
"Samples have been picked up from the spot by the Fire Department and an FSL team. We are waiting for a report by them to ascertain the cause of fire. We have received a complaint in this regard following which we have registered an FIR and further investigations are underway," said a senior police official on condition of anonymity.
The blaze broke out at around 6:30 AM at St Sebastian's Church following which the security guard informed Father Antony Francis, the pastor of the church who then called Fire Birgade.
"We received a call around 7:25 AM about a blaze in the furniture. Four fire tenders were rushed to the spot which controlled the blaze by 8:30 AM," said a Fire department official.
"The sanctuary, sacristy and the first floor balcony of the church is completely gutted. It seems to be a deliberate act as we could smell kerosene on the spot," said Father Stanley Kozhichira, media director of Delhi archdiocese.
Other religious leaders of the community termed the incident the handiwork of "anti-social" elements.
"It has been by anti-social elements. We are not blaming any particular group for the act but it has been done by anti-social elements. It looks to me a case of sabotage and not of short-circuit as the fuse box was completely intact," said Father Suresh.
Following the incident, a large number of people from the community gathered outside the church and prayed for peace and better sense. People were seen crying looking at the burnt remains. They later moved to the local police station where they staged a sit in and moved only after senior officials ensured speedy investigation.
A number of politicians also reached the spot and took stock of the situation.