Mumbai: On January 8, Mumbai Police arrested Dawood Ibrahim Ansari (22) for allegedly vandalising crosses at Mumbai’s Mahim Church cemetery. The incident occurred in the early hours of January 7.
At least 18 crosses and tombstones at the 400-year-old Mahim’s Church were vandalised. Ibrahim Ansari was tracked using CCTV footage of the Church. Reportedly, after desecrating the crosses and tombstones, Ansari sat down and prayed. The Police are trying to investigate the motive behind all these actions. Ansari was produced in front of a local court in Mumbai and has been remanded in police custody.
“The incident happened around 5 am. The watchman noticed this later. There was Mass in the morning so I came to know of the incident around 8.30 am. Soon the Police were informed,” said Fr. Lancy Pinto, priest of the Church.
Notably, the Church at Mahim is nearly 400 years old, and the cemetery behind it was also established around the same time. Father Lancy Pinto also said , Ansari was seen kneeling in the Church and praying after vandalising the tombstones and crosses in the cemetery.
Ansari’s family has said that he earlier worked in his uncle’s shop in Navi Mumbai and was “mentally unstable”. But there is no immediate evidence to show he is undergoing treatment.
Ansari came to Mahim by a local train and reached the station. Reportedly, the Church’s watchman spotted him and thought he was there to steal the marble. He clicked his pictures and shooed him away. Later, when the watchman checked the graveyard, he noticed that several Crosses and tombstones were damaged.
As many as 18 crosses were vandalised by Ibrahim Ansari, whose footage has been caught on CCTV.
“We arrested Ansari from Kalamboli, involved in vandalising crosses at the cemetery. He works with his uncle, who has a mattress shop in Navi Mumbai. So far, there is no clarity on the reason behind his acts,” said Manoj Patil, zonal deputy commissioner.
DCP Patil added, “This is a serious matter involving a religious angle, therefore, the motive behind the incident will be investigated thoroughly, after which it will be revealed to the media.”
The Police has also registered an offence under IPC sections 295 (defiling a place of worship with intent to insult religion) and 447 (punishment for criminal trespass).
Senior Inspector Sudhakar Baburao of the Mahim police station said, “We immediately registered an FIR and checked CCTV cameras of the Church. We found that the accused intentionally damaged and vandalised graves and crosses. We formed a team to trace the accused and found him in Navi Mumbai. He is mentally disturbed but why he damaged and vandalised the graves and crosses we are trying to find. He doesn’t have a criminal record.”
Thanking the Mumbai Police, Dolphy D’Souza, President of Bombay Catholic Sabha said, “The Bombay Catholic Sabha appreciates the speed in which Mumbai police and particularly the Mahim police team apprehended the culprit. Thanks to the cops.
However, the Mumbai police are urged to investigate the motive behind the mindless vandalisation of the St. Michael’s Church graveyard which rattled the community and the citizens who visit this Church in large numbers. It would be appropriate if the Police share it in the public domain.”
Meanwhile, Congress’s Netta D’Souza has blamed BJP for the increasing “hate” in the country. She published the photograph of the culprit as well. However, she didn’t mention the name of the accused.