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Christians to protest over land acquisition.

Mumbai: Catholics in India's commercial capital have decided not to part with an inch of church or school land to the municipal authorities for a drain widening project and instead will hold a massive protest on Saturday to demand a withdrawal of all land acquisition notices.

"We want the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to permanently withdraw notices of acquisition of land at St Joseph High School Grounds, the 400-year-old Our Lady of Assumption Church, Kandivali and St Anthony's Church, Malwani," said Dolphy d'Souza, spokesperson of Save Our Land Committee. With an increase in the Christian population, around 300,000, in some of the pockets of the western suburbs, a demand for a cemetery will also be raised at the protest rally. Many Christians complain that a lack of burial ground forces them to travel 12-20 km, making funerals an expensive affair.

Calling themselves as the soft targets of the administration, they say the government and the BMC in the past have systematically targeted open spaces of minorities as in the case of St Andrew's Church cemetery, St Peter's Church and St Stanislaus School grounds and a Parsi Agiary on Hill Road, Bandra, on the pretext of road widening in November 2006. "A defiant community supported by various NGOs and activists made a hue and cry and the authorities had to abandon their plans," says D'Souza.

They hope to put up a similar fight once again since they strongly believe that there is no logic in widening the drain at the school and church. The BMC is said to have already checked the feasibility of the river widening project and wants to go ahead. Parishioners are worried over the BMC wanting a part of the cemetery, school playground and church land since they had earlier given away land in front of the church for road widening, without asking for compensation, and that very land is now encroached even as vehicles are parked for free.

The Poisar river, which starts from Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivili, and ends up in Malad Creek, becomes a drain through its journey with the flow of the water being constrained due to encroachment and debris. "We don't understand the logic of the BMC wanting to widen the drain at the church/school from 36 metres to 37.5 metres where it is the widest in its course," says D'Souza. Many Christians suspect there is an ulterior motive since construction is coming up on the opposite bank and the river could be reclaimed to increase its floor space index.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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