Christians living in a suburb of India's largest city, Mumbai, took to the streets in protest after two statues of Mother Mary were desecrated on Sunday in Kurla village.
According to community members who spoke with the Mumbai-based Daily News & Analysis, the two statues, which were covered by glass facades, were vandalized around 4 a.m. on Sunday morning.
One of the statues is located at the entrance of the village while the other is located inside the village. It is believed that two miscreants on motorbikes threw paver blocks at the statues, causing the glass to break.
"Someone close to the statue heard the glass being broken but then she did not bother about it, not thinking and knowing that it was Mother Mary's idol that was desecrated," Kurla resident Lovinda Gomes explained.
DNA reports that the incident was the first time that those particular Mother Mary statues had been vandalized, even though it's common for people to rob the statues of their chain decorations.
"The outside idol suffered more damage. Some boys who were around saw that paver blocks were thrown by some people in the bike," Kurla resident Ingrid Gomes told the news outlet. "It was they who created noise and informed people in the vicinity."
Although the the perpetrators may have escaped, a witness was able to write down a license number listed on one of the fleeing motorcycles and provided that information to the local authorities.
"The man noted the license number of the vehicle but could not get a good look at the men as they were wearing helmets," Vivian D'Souza, the resident who registered the complaint with the local police, told IndianExpress.com.
The local police are currently investigating the crime.
"We have registered an FIR under section 295 and 427 of the Indian Penal Code. Some people mentioned about the two-wheeler number but we are looking at the case from all angles right now," Deputy Police Commissioner Paramjitsingh Dahia told DNA. "The idol was among those that are outside people's house. We have not made any arrests till now and are investigating the case."
After word spread about the statues' desecration, a large number of residents assembled around the statues in the morning. According to IndianExpress.com, the angry villagers took to busy roads to demonstrate their displeasure and blocked off traffic to demand that action be taken against those who vandalized the statues.
The local police eventually succeeded in getting the angry residents to settle down and stop blocking traffic.
"No one was willing to listen to the police initially, even when the additional commissioner of police appealed for peace," D'Souza said. "A large crowd had come out to protest the desecration."
The crime comes as India currently ranks as the 15th worst country in the world for Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List.
Although the desecration of the Mother Mary statues is a rather mild form of persecution against the Christian community, many other Christians in India, especially Christian converts, have been killed, tortured and victimized through honor crimes committed by Hindu extremists and other radicals from indigenous religions.
Last week, it was reported that a convert couple living in Jharkhand state were forced to stand in cold pond water for over 17 hours because of their refusal to denounce Christ and convert back to their indigenous religion, Sarna Dharam.
After 17 hours, the husband suffered serious nerve damage. He eventually died after suffering from paralysis.