Dehradun: Two months have passed since a small church in Roorkee, Uttarakhand, was allegedly attacked by a mob of around 200 right-wing Hindutva extremists but no arrests have been made so far.
This despite an FIR being lodged naming the attackers within a few hours of the attack. 65-year-old Sadhana Portor has been running the three-decade-old Church, House of Prayer, with her daughters after her husband, pastor D R Lance, died of coronavirus in the first wave.
“We were just beginning our prayer meeting inside the church when a massive crowd rushed inside at 10 am. They pulled off the cross from the wall and broke it into pieces. They also took down the portrait of my late husband and stomped on it.”
Many churchgoers were injured, one so badly that he had to be referred to a hospital in Dehradun.
India is witnessing a wave of attacks on Churches and Christian establishments by Hindutva outfits since September, based on unproven allegations of forcible conversions.
In the FIR, Ms Portor claimed many of the attackers were her long-time neighbours, with at least three linked to the local BJP, the ruling party of Uttarakhand.
One of those named is Seema Goel, who lives just a five-minute walk from Sadhana Portor. Ms Portor’s daughter Eva says she saw Seema Goel leading the mob. Seema Goel is part of the BJP Mahila Morcha and can be seen campaigning for the upcoming elections in Uttarakhand in photographs posted by the local BJP MLA Pradip Batra on Facebook.
Sagar Goel, also named in the FIR, is part of the BJP Yuva Morcha. He too is involved in election campaigning and met the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami 2 November, as per a Facebook post by Goel.
Another local BJP leader named in the FIR, Dhir Singh, denies that he was involved in the violence.
When the investigating officer Vivek Kumar was asked why there have been no arrests two months on, he said, “The investigation is ongoing and as per the facts that emerge we will take action.” He refused to comment further.
The police inaction has raised questions of political influence. Uttarakhand is set to go to polls in February 2022 and so-called illegal religious conversions is one of the issues raised by the ruling BJP, which passed an anti-forcible conversion Bill in 2018.