Indian priest refutes police theory that jilted lover behind Agra church attack

(Photo: REUTERS / Stringer)India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) speaks with cardinal George Alencherry at an event organized by the Christian community to celebrate the beatification of two Indians by Pope Francis late last year, in New Delhi February 17, 2015. Modi vowed on Tuesday to protect all religious groups, an apparent response to a series of attacks on Christian institutions in New Delhi fuelling concerns that minorities are being targeted by Hindu zealots

Church officials want an independent investigation into the April attack on a Catholic church in India's Uttar Pradesh state, after an initial police probe said the motive for the defacement was unrelated to religion.

The Christian community in the northern Indian state is dissatisfied about the police investigation as authorities claimed a jilted lover under the influence of drugs carried out the attack at St. Mary's Church in Agra district on April 16.

Police arrested a man identified as Haider Ali, a Muslim in his 20s, who worked as a rickshaw puller, Agra senior superintendent Rajesh Modak said.

Modak told ucanews.com that Haider carried out the attack on the church early on April 16, enraged after a girl he was in love with did not meet with him.

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"He was in love with a girl who used to come to the church on Saturday and for the last few days, he was not able to meet her," Modak said, pointing out that the suspect claimed responsibility for the incident. "So out of anger, he committed the crime."

Times of India sources claimed the girl was Christian.

"It is not possible that he would have done all the damage alone. The police version is not convincing. We want a separate independent inquiry into the matter," said Father Savarimuthu Shankar, spokesperson for the Delhi archdiocese, in an interview with ucanews.com.

Four statues inside the church's courtyard were destroyed, and a dog leash wrapped around the image of the Virgin Mary when St. Mary's parish priest was roused from his sleep and saw what had happened.

In addition to the destroyed statues, cars parked inside the church compound had been damaged.

Shankar believes the initial police theory sought to downplay the connection of the incident to a string of attacks against religious minorities over the past few months. At least six churches have been vandalized in Delhi since December.

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