Indian police arrested six suspected members of a hard-line Hindu group for attacking 40 Catholics taking part in a 280-mile pilgrimage to a Marian shrine in Velankanni in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The attackers were accused of blocking the pilgrims on a public road last week and beating and verbally abusing them, a police inspector told ucanews.com.
A Marian statue the pilgrims were carrying in a decorated hand-pulled cart was destroyed in the attack, he said.
The suspects remained in custody as police investigated the case. They face charges of attempted murder, rioting, hurting religious sentiments and acting to destroy religious peace.
The pilgrims, who started their journey from neighbouring Karnataka, continued the pilgrimage under police protection, Church officials said.
“The attack is an open threat to the constitutional freedom of expression and freedom of movement to a citizen of the country,” said Fr Cyril Victor Joseph, director of the communication centre in the Archdiocese of Bangalore.
“Such attacks are a serious threat to peace and harmony, especially between people of different religious groups. Though the attack was on a small group, the message is for all Christians. It was an open threat against public expression and practice of our faith,” Joseph said.
Christian leaders have expressed concern that their people have faced increased attacks from radical Hindu groups since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.