Friday, May 20, 2016

Mumbai Christians suspect builder-official nexus, to protest proposed demolition of Heritage Cross,Graveyard

Poster calling for protest
By Our Representative
Two Christian NGOs, Save Our Land (SOUL) and Watchdog Foundation, have decided to stage a strong protest in Mumbai against Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC's) “decision” to demolish the historic 450 years old Heritage Cross and the Graveyard of the Heritage Church of Our Lady of Remedy in West Kandivali.
SOUL suspects, the decision to demolish these historic structures has come about as many builders are finding it “difficult to remove the religious structures on the road/footpath, including to the Holy Crosses”, the communique says, they are now conniving with officials of the BMC “for the removal of such religious structures.”
“Our Lady of Remedy Church is not an exception to this unholy nexus. There is a 32 storey tower very close to the church and there are no flat purchasers for the building and the building is lying mostly vacant due to narrow passage, which leads to the building. Therefore, it is clear at whose instance the local officials are acting to widen the SV Road in front the church”, the NGO says.
The demonstration has been proposed for May 22, 2016, at 10.30 am outside the Our Lady of Remedy Church, opposite Poinsur Depot, SV Road. 
The church was built in 1550, with Our Lady of Remedy High School is one of the oldest schools in Kandivali West, having been established in 1926.
Alleging that the BMC “is hell bent on trampling the rights of thein the state, which are guaranteed under the Constitution of India”, the NGO communique says, on February 23, 2016, a chawl on the church’s property was demolished. And on April 21, 2016, the sub-engineer of the corporation came with officers and threatened the church employees.
Contending that the “heritage church has a heritage cemetery”, it says, “There is a religious sentiment as far as the dead are concerned in the graves and the bodies are semi-decomposed and desecrating and opening them on the intended road will disturb the religious sentiments of the families of the deceased and can give rise to law and order problem.”
“There are at the moment approximately 100 graves. If the unwarranted demolition is carried out the Church stands to lose almost 50 percent of the graves, which will leave hardly any burial place for the parishioners of the Church”, it says.
According to SOUL spokesperson Dolphy A. D'souza , “In spite of several agitations and protests in the past, the BMC has not been able to allot land and construct a cemetery for the last 15 years on the western express highway for the Christian community that numbers almost 3 lakhs.”
“Time and again”, he says, the corporation has “made promises but nothing concrete has happened. Hence the Christian community has to transport their beloved deceased members as far as Sewri / Sion/ Oshiwara for burial purposes, putting them to tremendous hardships and expense while they are grieving for their departed.”
Insisting that the Church has been included in the proposed heritage Category II A List published by the BMC, the communique says, the Church, along with the Holy Cross, would “qualify to fall under the definition of ‘ancient monuments’ as defined in Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and thus need to be preserved and protected.”
“As per the Development Control Regulations for Greater Mumbai, 1995, particularly, the Heritage Regulations for Greater Bombay, 1995 framed under Regulation No.67, lists some of the Churches in Grade II A of the Heritage Regulation and contribute to the image and identity of the City”, it adds.

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