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  • » 02/25/2009, 00.00


    Government blocks rebuilding of church in Orissa

    Nirmala Carvalho

    The church was about to be turned into a Hindu temple. The authorities have stopped construction, but they are not permitting the Catholics to rebuild the edifice, for "legal" reasons.

    Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - The church of Batticola, destroyed by Hindu extremists and replaced with a temple, may not be rebuilt: the government is not giving permission, because the Christian community does not hold the deed of ownership.

    Just a few days ago, some news agencies reported that the government of Orissa had stopped construction of a Hindu temple on the rubble of the edifice, in the district of Kandhamal, which was razed to the ground and burned last August at the beginning of the pogrom against Christians.

    But local sources tell AsiaNews that the report of the cease and desist order given to the Hindu extremists "does not make us happy, because the authorities are not permitting us to rebuild the church in the same place. The government is demanding that the diocese show the deed of ownership for the property. So we have filed a complaint, and we will see when we go to court."

    The church of Batticola was built on a tract of land bought in the name of a tribal priest, who is now deceased. Since there is no evidence that the ownership was passed to other parties, the government is bringing into crisis the legality of the building itself.

    A priest who was pastor in Batticola for a few years explains: "The Catholic community in Batticola is a very small minority, which emerged around 1975. At that time, a tribal priest, Fr. Joseph Pradhan, bought a tract of land in his own name and built a church on it. All of this is legal, and the church of Batticola has the same status as other non-Christian religious buildings, all of them used for the needs of the inhabitants of the village, the land for which is bought by individuals and then transferred to the community."

    "In 1995, a dispensary was added to the chapel, and the foundations were laid for a larger church. This began to annoy the Hindu extremists, who, bearing arms, repeatedly threatened the priest at the time, Fr. Norbert Nayak. They also vandalized the nearby cemetery, destroying all of the crosses. In the end, the priest had to abandon the area, and the parish was closed."

    In 1998, other priests tried to reopen it and to live in Batticola. But in 2000, there was an attempt to destroy it, again on the part of young Hindu extremists.

    According to Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, Batticola is a special target of the anti-Christian campaign. "Last October," he recalls, "the radical Hindus spread false information according to which there had been a meeting in Batticola to decide to kill the swami Laxamananda Saraswati." The death of the swami last August 23 was the spark that ignited the series of attacks that killed at least 500 people, destroyed thousands of homes, burned hundreds of churches, and made more than 50,000 faithful flee.

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    See also

    06/02/2009 INDIA
    Orissa: Hindu temple being built atop rubble of Batticola church
    Hindu radicals had previously tried to destroy it in 2000. The situation remains tense. Christians are humiliated and marginalized, unless they convert to Hinduism.

    19/11/2008 INDIA
    Sister who was raped gives deposition to police, but will not return to Orissa
    Sister Meena and Fr. Thomas Chellan have recounted the violence they suffered on the night they were assaulted by Hindu fundamentalists. This sister remains in Delhi, and will not participate in the "American-style" lineup scheduled today in Baliguda. Ministers of the central government are meeting with Christian families from Orissa living in refugee camps.

    29/12/2008 INDIA
    Security forces in Orissa can't stop arson, fear
    Two shops and a Christian center have been burned. More than 10,000 refugees gathered in the camps have celebrated Christmas under the protection of the army. In the villages, the Masses were moved up to the afternoon in order to avoid returning home in the dark.

    23/07/2009 INDIA
    Orissa: Maoist couple surrenders because of their involvement in swami’s murder
    Husband and wife surrender to police in Rayagada district. They admit being involved in the assassination of the Hindu leader, an event that set off an anti-Christian pogrom in Orissa. GCIC president deplores the fact “that in the region the reign of terror continues.”

    28/10/2008 INDIA
    Fr. Bernard Digal dies, India mourns another martyr of Orissa
    The religious was attacked on the night of August 25, by a crowd of Hindu fundamentalists who beat him and left him in the forest for an entire night. Yesterday, his lungs collapsed and he fell into a coma. At his deathbed, Archbishop Raphael Cheenath.

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