12/03/2021, 16.02
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BJP leaders accused of building unauthorised bungalow amid Old Goa churches

by Nirmala Carvalho

Built in the 17th century, the churches are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Archbishop Ferrao speaks out on the feast of Saint Francis Xavier, who is buried in one of the churches. Acts “detrimental to the preservation of the religious and heritage sanctity of Old Goa” should stop, he said.

Goa (AsiaNews) - A company linked to a senior member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is building a bungalow in a protected area in Goa, near a group of heritage churches. Built in the 17th century, the churches are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa sent a warning to local authorities during the celebration of the feast of Saint Francis Xavier, whose remains are venerated in the Goa complex.

“I would like to express the solidarity of the Church in Goa with several of our brothers and sisters of different faiths who have been undertaking various demonstrations for many days now, against some obnoxious activities in this heritage site,” Archbishop Ferrao said in a clear reference to the bungalow.

“I strongly appeal to all those in authority to refrain from any acts and decisions which are illegal and detrimental to the preservation of the religious and heritage sanctity of Old Goa,” he added.

The bungalow under construction is located near the church of St Cajetan Church in Old Goa. Activists and opposition parties allege that the structure is illegal since it violates building regulations and heritage rules.

Mumbai real estate agent Manish Munot and Suvarna Lotlikar, wife of the former Goa Forward party treasurer Suraj Lotlikar, are behind the project. However, Munot's wife, Shaina NC, who is a national spokesperson for the BJP, claims “we have nothing to do with this.”

In the wake of the protest, the Town and Country Planning Department of the Goa government opened an investigation into possible fraud in connection with the building permit.

For Archbishop Ferrao, such “offensive interventions” and illegal constructions could lead UNESCO to strip the Old Goa church complex of its world heritage status.

"This would be a tremendous and severe loss to Goa,” he said.

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