News Roorkee, Christian prayer house attack in Uttaranhand ‘unprecedented’, could stoke larger divide, residents fear

Roorkee, Christian prayer house attack in Uttaranhand ‘unprecedented’, could stoke larger divide, residents fear

11 October, 2021: On 3 October, nearly 250 people ‘vandalised’ a prayer house in Roorkee and ‘assaulted’ a few people. Locals say the scale of attack was ‘new’. VHP will ‘expand’ anti-conversion drive.

On 3 October, a mob of nearly 250 people gathered in front of the prayer house, before allegedly vandalising it and assaulting a few people after accusing Pentecostal evangelist Prio Sadhna Potter and those present of illegal conversions.

A week on, with no arrests made yet, local residents fear an attack like this, which was “never seen” in Roorkee before, will set precedent for similar assaults, and vitiate the atmosphere in the city.

The family of Potter, whose late husband pastor Dickens Rockwell Lance used to run the prayer house, is also scared for its safety as it battles a social boycott. They say that the attack illustrates the widening communal divide and is bound to become a trend unless strict action is taken against the culprits.

This fear could only get stoked further by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leadership in the region, which has threatened to expand its ‘anti-conversion’ drive against the Christian community in rural parts of Uttarakhand. VHP leaders told ThePrint that the state police must take action against missionaries involved in alleged religious conversion of the Hindus, or else they would deal with it themselves.

Speaking to ThePrint, Uttarakhand Director General of Police (DGP) Ashok Kumar, however, reaffirmed his commitment to the safety of Potter and her family, saying all the guilty will be arrested soon. “Victims have been provided the needed security and cops will remain there till their threat perception is mitigated completely,” said Kumar.

Parmendra Dobhal, Haridwar Superintendent of Police (Rural), said the probe results will be seen soon and the accused will be arrested.

The attack, in which one victim, Rajat, sustained serious injuries on the head, face, back and ear, resulted in two FIRs being filed. The first FIR was filed against eight persons by name — including VHP, Bajrang Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders — and 242 unnamed on a complaint from Potter.

A cross FIR was, however, filed against Potter and 10 other members of the Christian community, including Rajat, following a complaint lodged by a woman named Sonam, resident of Adarsh Nagar, Roorkee.

Sonam alleged that she, her husband Rahul and others were called for a community function at the prayer hall but Potter and 10 others present there tried to persuade them to embrace Christianity as they will be paid Rs 2 lakh each and given free education and medical aid.

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