Christians take stance against land grabbing

May 25, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Mumbai, May 25, 2016: Some 3,000 Catholics from various parishes in the Mumbai Archdiocese protested what they called an unjust administrative decision to take away land belonging to a historic church.

The protest began after the city’s Brihanmumbai Municipal Corp. (BMC) announced plans to demolish the cross inside the compound wall of Our Lady of Remedy Church, which was built by Portuguese missionaries in 1550.

The corporation said the demolition was needed for widening a road, but Christian leaders in Mumbai like Dolphy D’Souza said the government has used road widening as an excuse for grabbing church property in the past.

“Not an inch of our land. Not an inch of our space,” the crowd shouted during a May 22 protest asserting they will not spare any land of the 466-year-old church, which the corporation itself has listed as heritage property needing protection.

Christian leaders said the church and cross fall under government definition of ancient monuments that by law demand the property be preserved and protected. The church also has a cemetery with some 100 graves and cannot be cannot be dug up, as per civic rules.

“If the unwarranted demolition is carried out the church stands to lose almost 50 percent of its space for graves, which will leave hardly any burial place for parishioners of the church,” said Ramsey Rebello, who coordinated the protest.

“We will not sit quietly and let the BMC take our land. … We will fight for justice,” Rebello said.

Christian leaders say they see a pattern in land grabbing that targets Christian churches.

Protesters said the BMC is seizing the land to please the developer constructed a 32-story residential complex close to the church. The builder has had trouble selling units because of a narrow road that led to the building. Protesteres said the BMC is acting on behalf of the builder to widen the road to help sale of the apartments.

The church has given already surrendered more than 40 percent of its land to the BMC for development. “And now they want more. We will not give an inch,” Rebello said.

More than 65 churches have had land grabbed by the government in a city where land is a premium. In most cases the development ultimately helped property developers rather than city development, protesters said.

“We are a soft target and not a political vote bank, hence authorities and the political class treat us as if we do not exist. But things are changing now. Because of such attitudes we are getting ourselves organized and agitate for our rights,” D’Souza said.

– ucan

Enter Google AdSense Code Here

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!