Card Gracias: Illegal Demolition of a Cross in Bandra (Video)
by Nirmala Carvalho

The Mumbai authorities authorized the destruction of the Christian religious symbol. The archbishop complains that the cross was on the wall of a private property. The owner of the property and ecclesiastical hierarchies had all the necessary documents. There is a makeshift cross to allow prayers.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Despite the tenacious opposition of the local Catholic community, the Mumbai municipal authorities demolished a cross on Bazaar Road in the Bandra district. Speaking to AsiaNews, Card. Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), condemns yet another "provocation by the government. All this is really alarming. The official who authorized the demolition must be held liable for such illegal action. "

The cardinal complains that the ancient cross, dating more than 100 years, "stood on the wall of a private property. It was no disruption for anyone and it did not bring any harm. " The Christian religious symbol, like so many other crosses spread in many corners of the city, had been erected around 1890 during a plague epidemic. "In Mumbai," he adds, "crosses have an important historical and religious significance since they were erected by Christians to protect from that ill-fated disease and to remind us of those who did not survive."

The demolition took place on 29 April and is just the latest in a series of episodes of intimidation against Christians and their religious symbols: in February a statue of the Virgin Mary was vandalized and decapitated; In mid-April a cross was defiled with a wreath of slippers twisted to the body of Christ.

Clashes over the Bazaar Road cross date back to 2010, when an petition against it was presented at the High Court in Mumbai. The ecclesiastical hierarchies complain that the destruction occurred despite the fact that they produced the documents requested by Sharad Ughade, the Commissioner in charge of the affair. They attest that the cross was located in the private land of a Christian, possessing all permits inherent in religious structures.

Local Catholics are protesting against the municipal decision and condemn the act as blasphemy. They have erected a new makeshift cross and are gathering in prayer in front of it.

Fr. Antony Charangat, Archdiocese spokesman and director of the Examiner, the diocesan weekly, states: "The government has violated the rights of a Christian individual by entering his private property and arbitrarily demolishing a cross in his property" . The demolition, concludes Card. Gracias, "hurt not only our religious sentiment but also that of all other faiths. These actions are not good for our city and for our country. They ruin sectarian harmony and cause a deterioration of social and religious integration. "