Mumbai: BMC stakes claim on Christian, Jewish cemeteries in Bandra; catholic community upset

Mumbai: BMC stakes claim on Christian, Jewish cemeteries in Bandra; catholic community upset

The Christian community says they have been seeking more space for burials but the civic body instead is burdening them with its own demand for road widening

Ashutosh M ShuklaUpdated: Friday, January 06, 2023, 12:16 AM IST
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Mumbai: BMC stakes claim on Christian, Jewish cemeteries in Bandra | File pic

Mumbai: The Catholic community in Mumbai is upset after the BMC put up a notice seeking a plot meant for a cemetery in Bandra. The civic body has also sought the cemetery land from the Jewish community. In a show of strength, the Christian community is organising a meeting on the issue at St. Peter’s Church today. The 115-year-old Christian cemetery was by the sea before other settlements reclaimed the land. 

The St. Peter’s Church Sea Side cemetery and Bandra Jewish cemetery are on either side of Kadeshwari Marg in the suburb. In a notice dated December 19 (received by the Parish priest recently), the BMC has sought portions of the land, close to Mount Mary Church steps, off St. John Baptist road (Church is at the top), for road widening but the missive doesn’t state the purpose overtly. While the church representatives confirmed receiving the notice, the representatives of the Bandra Jewish cemetery weren’t available to comment.

Father: Not mentioned how much area they want

Father Frazer said, “They are saying they want to widen the road and develop the slum area behind the cemetery. A cemetery is a place of worship and has around 500 graves. They have not even clearly mentioned how much area they want. Only a map has been given and it seems a huge chunk will go. Around 20-25 graves will go, which we are not ready to give.” He said there is a parallel road and the civic body should find access from there and not hurt the sentiments of Christians and Jews in the city. Father Mascarenhas added that commercial interests are very strong. “Instead of looking to provide civic convenience and town planning, they are doing this,” he said. 

Members of the community said the cemetery is still functional and people come to bury their loved ones who have departed. “We are running short of space for burials and they are asking for space from us. Our demand has been pending with the government to provide a cremation ground at Goregaon and Kandivali as people have to travel a lot for the ritual. They have to sometimes find other alternatives. We are very upset with this,” said Dolphy D’Souza of the Bombay Catholic Sabha. 

Members of the Catholic community met BMC officials

Joint Municipal Commissioner (zone 3) Ranjit Dhakane, who sent the letter, did not respond to the messages and call from the Free Press Journal. The reporter had asked him why is the BMC seeking possession of cemetery lands, how many structures did the civic body serve similar notices to, the area required from them and the outcome of his meeting with the representatives of the community. 

The members of the Catholic community said they had an “informal meeting” with Mr Dhakane on Thursday. “He said he will consider our position and asked us to give our views in writing, which we will give by Friday. Today (Thursday) we met him and apprised him of our objections. He said he will conduct a hearing after receiving our formal statement,” said Father Frazer. 

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