by Dolphy Dsouza
The Christian community is truly a soft target as is evident from the following happenings and it is time for us to wake up and take a stand.
1. Our Lady of Assumption Church and St Joseph’s School- Kandivali West
The BMC issued an acquisition notice to the Church / School to surrender parts of the Cemetery, School Ground and Church for widening of the famously Poisar River which has now become a stinking Nullah [Gutter] all because of the callousness of the BMC authorities.
The core of the Brimstowad Project is that the flow of the river [now a gutter]should be cleared so that the storm water flows clearly in the sea without any blockages or impediments which will cause flooding.
Also the point to be noted is that this project was studied and a plan constructed in 2008, despite this the BMC and other authorities have approved constructions, just at the border of the nullah in numerous sites. The amazing fact is that a bridge at Dahanukar wadi near the Church recently constructed has a width which is less than 38 feet besides it being low that will act as an impediment for the free flow of water. When questioned why this factors were not taken into consideration, the BMC cited lack of funds , so the question is who are we fooling here ?.
Hence there is no logic in widening the Nullah near the Cemetry /School / Church side.
And instead of addressing this issue the BMC wants to waste the tax payers money by demolishing existing structures and reconstructing at their cost what they can easily achieve by de-silting the nullah and preventing garbage/ debris from being dumped as now it has turned into a stinking nullah.
Have the BMC understood the objective of the project or are they interpreting the same blindly, whereby a huge amount of money which can be used for needed projects is being wasted, just because someone cannot think clearly or do not want to?.
We stand to lose 100’s of our graves of our ancestors, the Children numbering over 1700 lose a playground and the BMC cannot provide open spaces [ whatever empty spaces are left are usurped by unscrupulous builders in connivance with the politicians and authorities].
Also when the new church was constructed couple of years ago the BMC insisted that certain areas be demarcated and kept free for fire control and other regulations, now the same BMC is stating that they can over look the same in the name of progress… which means that in the name of progress all rules and regulations which are by the book can be erased…so then why make such rules?
What purpose this widening will help for the smooth flow of water is a mystery because at Mith-chowky (Malad) a major chunk of the nullah space has been encroached under the very nose of the various authorities.
On two occasions the said church had given land in front of the church for road widening without asking / claiming for any compensation. Tomorrow they might ask the premises of the whole church including the grounds for other purposes which we can never foretell. BMC works in strange ways.
This church is an heritage precinct with a history of over 400 years.
2. St Anthonys Church at Malawani, Malad West.
A similar notice of acquisition for road widening was issued by the BMC authorities. This is also an heritage precinct.
While they want the church land for road widening, exactly opposite the Church premises they have allowed constructions of residential / commercial premises for which permissions were given as late as 2001.
While the church authorities have made several representations they have fallen on deaf ears.
3. Cemetery on the East side of the Western Suburbs..
On October 14, 2012 there was a massive rally at Kandivali East of over 4000 Christians demanding their cemetery.
In 1996, land was allotted for a composite cemetery. But owing to the alleged negligence/ lapses of the BMC in not constructing the designated boundaries, this land was encroached upon. While the Muslim and the Hindu community got their burial grounds, the Christians had no place to bury their dead as it was encroached upon. The whole belt from Khar to Dahisar does not have a Christian burial ground. There are over 3 lakh Christians and they dread death because the cost of burying their dear ones is expensive as the nearest Cemeteries at Charkop ,Malad West or Oshiwara, Goregaon West which are at a distances of more than 5-15 kms.
From 2003 the United Christian Community Centre has been agitating on this issue.Everyone including politicians promise. But when it comes to implementation they go into a coma.
The various groups have been contact with the local MP Shri Sanjay Nirupam. We thank him for his involvement, but patience is slowly running out as we are still unaware whether our issues will really be resolved or not ?
There have been constant approach by the Government and the BMC authorities in the past to systematically target spaces of the Church and the community. In the past they had tried to acquire the St Andrews’ Church Cemetery and other parts, St Peters Church / St Stanislaus School spaces and the Parsi Aguiary on Hill Road, Bandra on the pretext of road widening. A defiant community and the various NGO’s [H West Federation, The Bombay Catholic Sabha, Activists and concerned Politicians] made a hue and cry and the concerned authorities had to abandon their nefarious designs.
St Josephs School , Hill Road land was given most willingly for footpath/ road widening and now it has been encroached by Hawkers and others. Holy Family Church and School have given major chunks of their land for road widening at Chakala recently and several others too.
In 1942 under the Defence of India rules large chunks of land were acquired for defence purposes from the East Indian Christian Community in the Sahar /Santacruz belt. The community gave it most willingly for the nation at a pittance. And today parts of the same land has been passed on to private developers to build 5 star hotels etc. Recently MIAL, [Airport Authorities] made an attempt to acquire Sahar Church/ School land and those of the residents for the purposes of airport expansion which was purely for building convention malls / golf course etc. The sustained agitation by Sahar Citizen Forum, St John Save Church Committee , Bombay Catholic Sabha and several others led to the abandoning of acquiring these properties.
We are asking for land since 1996 for a Cemetry on the Eastern side of the Western suburbs which the BMC cannot provide and BMC demands land from the Churches/ Schools as a matter of right.
BMC usually fails to plan but in this case their plans are surely going to fail. This type of bullying won’t do now. If they still insist in acquiring the said lands or do not provide us a Cemetry in a time bound manner than the community will have no choice but make this a political issue for the forthcoming elections of 2014 or earlier if it happens.
Are the authorities taking us for granted?,or maybe they rely on the fact that we are a peace loving and law abiding community and can be easily trampled upon.
Are they really concerned about the genuine grievances of the community and are working on solving them?
Or maybe they want a peace loving & law abiding community no option
but to vent their feelings and frustrations by a peaceful agitation.
WE CANNOT WAIT ANY LONGER – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
We appeal to the Chief Minister to step in to solve these just demands. Is the Chief Minister listening????
[The author of this article is Immd. Past President of The Bombay Catholic Sabha and former National Vice-President of the All India Catholic Union]
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“Peoples stand for their land- OLAC & St Joseph High School”