The statue of Jesus Christ and 14 crosses were demolished at a four-acre plot Catholic centre in Devanahalli on Monday by the civic body claiming that the priests at the prayer venue were converting local people, reported The Telegraph.
The body called this abrupt action as a demolition drive which was undertaken after Bajrang Dal and Hindu Rakshana Vedike activists complained about the alleged conversion activity.
They had also protested during the worship hours on February 23 asserting that the church was built on the plot illegally. On the other hand, the church authorities have denied the allegations and said, "A small chapel is part of a cemetery and the prayer centre,” reported The Telegraph.
Bajrang Dal state convener Suryanarayan Rao told The Telegraph while accusing the church of land encroachment. “The church encroached on government land to carry out its activities. They were even converting local Hindus,” he said.
Priest Fr Mathew Kottayil told The Telegraph, “We had been praying at this very spot for about 20 years when the (then Congress-led) state government officially gave us the land six years ago for free,”
“The officials came and knocked down the statue and the crosses that are now lying on the ground. They didn’t even allow us anywhere near while they went ahead with the demolition,” the priest added.
He said further, “It is wrong to say we were converting people. We cater only to Catholic families and others who might come here to pray. We strongly feel that the protesters were from outside this place as local people have always cooperated with us and never interfered in our religious affairs. They came unannounced and just broke everything that we have built slowly over the years.”
“They came unannounced and just broke everything that we have built slowly over the years. We are now planning to go to court to restore the land to us. Since we don’t want any confrontation with anyone, we are also thinking of approaching the state government with an appeal to allow us to continue with our activities there,” Kottayil said.
Archbishop of Bangalore Peter Machado termed the act in a written statement a “blow to communal harmony”.
It stated that “It is a blow to communal harmony of the people in our villages and also a violation of the religious freedom guaranteed to us by the Indian Constitution”.
The archbishop stated in the letter, “If there is any instance of forceful conversion, let the government investigate and take action. But it will not bring credit to the government and to the local authorities to unnecessarily interfere in the religious tenets and practices of Christians by yielding to the pressure of some groups,”
The Telegraph tried contacting the Devanahalli tehsildar Ajith Kumar Rai regarding the removal of the crosses and the statue, but all efforts went unanswered.