Villagers at Vasai hurl stones at church-goers

Mumbai, India - A protest against vehicles disturbing the peace of Dongri-Bhuigaon village in Vasai snowballed into a sort-of communal Christians, belonging to the Pentecostal sect, were on their way to the Ashirwad Prayer centre on Sunday morning when a few residents of the area pelted them with stones, the police said. According to an eyewitness, around 8 in the morning, around 10-15 people started hurling stones at the vehicles headed for the prayer centre at the Dongri-Bhuigaon. This was reportedly a protest against vehicles-trundling towards the prayer centre and those parked nearby-making too much noise and disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood, where a school is also located.

"On Saturday night, a few people met me outside the prayer centre and threatened me to stop conducting prayers or face the consequences,'' said director and founder of the centre Sebastian Martin. "They said the cars were causing problems for the school and the families staying in the vicinity.'' Martin had informed the police of the threat.

"But the officials failed to take the threat seriously. Three policemen posted outside the centre were mute spectators when the incident occurred,'' Martin added.

However, the police have denied that any such incident had occurred but admitted that personnel had been posted at the prayer centre from Saturday night. "The fight between the centre and the villagers is an old issue. Two months ago, a committee headed by the district collector was formed to settle it,'' said Rajendra Naik, police inspector of Vasai police station. The police have asked the representatives of both the sides to put their grievances before the committee and redress them.

After the stone-pelting, vice-chairman of the minority commission Abraham Mathai had a talk with the police and the bandobast was beefed up to ensure that there was no communal clash.