The Tamil Nadu police, on August 19, arrested six men belonging to the Hindu Munnani after they allegedly assaulted Christian pilgrims in Vellore district. The pilgrims were making their way from Karnataka to Velankanni church in Nagapattinam district by foot. The accused, says the police, abused the pilgrims and tore apart a poster they were carrying with images of 'Mother Mary' and 'Jesus Christ'.
The incident took place at 9pm on August 18 in Natrampalli, when the group of 40 pilgrims - 35 men and 5 women were walking to their place of rest for the night. According to the police, the pilgrimage was an annual occurrence and this was the first time that it had led to an untoward incident.
"The six men, verbally abused the pilgrims and tore their poster. While doing so, the two groups got into a tussle. The fight would have escalated if the local inspector did not intervene, " says Deputy Superintendent of police (DSP), Murali. "The pilgrims were taken to their accommodation but were not willing to complain initially. It took upto 6 hours to convince them to give a formal complaint," he adds.
When the pilgrims conceded, the police immediately swept into action and the six accused were arrested by the next morning. He further added that reports that claimed that the pilgrims had preached Christianity were false.
"They were merely walking through the area with a poster. They were neither preaching or trying to convert anyone. The attackers were fanatics. There is no motive," says the DSP. "They were local men and the inspector had seen them himself, making us easy to arrest them. The men are between the ages of 20 and 50," he adds.
The accused - Singaravel, Charmudi, Prabhu, Sivakumar, Elango and Mani have been booked for non-bailable offences including section 153 A (by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion) of the Indian Penal code.