Commotion prevailed on Thursday evening after an altercation broke out between a group of worshippers in church and a group of residents in east Bengaluru’s DJ Halli purportedly over the use of loudspeakers. Video of the commotion shot by the worshippers of the Power of God Church in Kanaka Nagar near RT Nagar has gone viral across social media platforms. In the video, the leader of the church community Peter Benjamin passionately claims that they have been attacked for being a minority. However, the neighbours led by Sudheer Kumar have dismissed that version alleging that it was more of an issue of nuisance than an issue of intolerance.
Watch the video here
Bengaluru police confirmed that they have registered two FIRs (first information report) based on complaints from both parties. “There is a case and a counter case regarding a fight that broke out at around 8:30 pm the day before yesterday. We have not made any arrests,” Inspector Keshavamurthy told TNM.
TNM spoke to both Peter Benjamin and Sudheer, who is also seen in the video stating that the church’s music system be shown on the Facebook video.
Sudheer and others have been booked under sections 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 149 (unlawful assembly guilty of the offence committed in prosecution of common object) and 295A ( deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code. Benjamin in turn has been booked under sections of 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 504 (intentintanny provoking any person), 295A (deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings) and 268 (public nuisance) of IPC.
Speaking with TNM, Benjamin said, “It is only a couple of people who take law and order in their own hands. It is not the right thing to barge into a place of worship and abuse. This shows the lack of tolerance. They almost came to hit me. If I had not done the Facebook live, I am not sure if I would have been left unhurt. The reason I called the police is also because I knew I was right.”
He added, “The simple thing is if we were wrong to worship there, then they would have called the police. It is for my protection that I had to call the police. If loud music was the issue, they could have politely told us that but it was never the case. Even in the video, I have said that play the music loudly, even then it should not be a problem as our church is sound proof.”
When TNM contacted Sudheer Kumar, he told that the church was not running with necessary permission and was causing a lot of inconvenience to the neighbourhood.
"The owner had rented the space to them when they wanted to start music class. They added microphones, speakers, amplifiers and would often play music loudly. The residents nearby took objection to loud music since it affected our work and children's study," he said.
He added that he had requested them to lower the volume on the day of the altercation as it was interrupting his ward's coaching class online session. He added that upon requesting, the people who had gathered gave the religious angle to the incident.
"At least 20-25 people gather every day. On the day of the incident, I only requested to lower the volume when they gave it a religious spin and said we should raise objections to bells in temples and azaan playing in mosques too. They called the police and both parties shared our grievances," Sudheer added.
He further said that those who gather, park their vehicles on the road which obstructs the residents' commute.