The prayers at the church had started around 11 am and the members were attacked around 11.45 am. Amid the attack at the 40-member congregation with swords, iron rods and bottles at the New Life Fellowship Church in Kolhapur’s Kowad, close to the Karnataka border, according to media. Eight people who suffered head injuries were taken to a hospital in Belagavi city in Karnataka.
“Around 15-20 people came on motorbikes, armed with iron rods and swords,” said Arjun Muttekar, who was part of the congregation. “They hurled stones at the church building and then barged inside.”
The pastor, Anil Bhonsale, said the group of armed men accused them of “holding conversion programmes before starting the assault”.
Kolhapur Superintendent of Police Abhinav Deshmukh said that there was a “possibility of the attack being carried out by right-wing activists”. “We are looking at all angles and an investigation is under way.”
Additional Superintendent of Police Shriniwas Ghadge said no arrests have been made so far and that police were verifying CCTV footage. The police have formed five teams to look for the accused.