India Christians protest over church fire

St Sebastian's Church at Dilshad Garden Image copyright Courtesy: Hindustan Times
Image caption The fire destroyed much of the building, including its prayer hall, altar and all statues

Hundreds of Christians have protested in the Indian capital after a Catholic church was burnt badly in a fire.

Officials of St Sebastian's Church located in the Dilshad Garden area in east Delhi said they suspected the church was a target of arson.

The fire on Monday morning destroyed much of the building, including its prayer hall, altar and all statues.

Delhi archbishop Anil Couto has appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order an inquiry into the fire.

On Monday evening, protesters held a candle light vigil and on Tuesday morning, some 200 members of various churches blocked traffic outside the church.

They shouted slogans and demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident.

"Samples were retrieved from the inside of the church, which still smelt of fuel oil. Till late Monday evening, the police could not say they had made any progress in their investigations,'' the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese said in a press release.

"The Christian community... and civil society have decided to protest at the offices of the police commissioner... to focus attention on the attempts to polarise the people in Delhi state, which goes to the polls soon, and the continued persecution of Christians in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and other tribal and rural areas,'' the release added.

The police initially blamed the fire on faulty wiring saying it was caused by a "short-circuit", but after protests by Christian community, they registered a case against unnamed people.

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