Thane: Bhoomipujan On 'Church Land' Ignites Tensions

Thane: Bhoomipujan On 'Church Land' Ignites Tensions

Complaint filed by Our Lady of Mercy Church against unnamed persons for religious ceremony; land claimed by church as historically part of Portuguese-era ruins, opposed by St John the Baptist Church, which sold it in 2007

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Friday, March 08, 2024, 11:24 PM IST
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A complaint was filed on Thursday night at a Thane police station against unnamed persons about a bhoomipujan planned for a compound wall for a playground on a disputed plot of land claimed by a local church on Pokhran Road.

The complaint was filed by a priest and members of the Our Lady of Mercy Church, which claims the land and has filed petitions and applications in the Bombay High Court and other judicial forums, including the Thane Civil Court, and the Loka yukta, saying that the plot was historically a part of the centuries-old ruins of a Portuguese-era structure, also called Our Lady of Mercy church.

Details of case

The prime plot is reserved as a playground in the Thane city Development Plan but was sold in 2007 by a trust belonging to another church in Thane, the St John the Baptist Church, to a prominent builder for Rs20 crore. The sale had been challenged in the office of the Charity Commissioner and the Bombay High Court by members of Our Lady of Mercy church. After the Charity Commissioner declined to hear the case, the church members went to the Bombay High Court.

The cases are still pending. Sunita Banis, the advocate representing the church trust, said that they had to intervene on Thursday night to stop a group of people who were trying to set up pandals on the plot. She said that the police agreed to file a complaint after much hesitation.

"Tribunal directed TMC to build boundary wall without getting into technicalities of case"

"A year ago someone with vested interest from our church made a news article of children collecting funds for the boundary wall of a playground. The state commission took suo motu cognisance of this. During the hearing, the tribunal directed TMC to build a boundary wall without getting into the technicalities of the case and ignoring the pendency of the litigations. Accordingly, the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) played smart and sanctioned Rs1 crore (they somehow want to grab the land)," Banis said.

The construction company that bought the plot has handed over the plot to the TMC in return for the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) that will be used in another project in the city.

Though the complaint filed at Vartak Nagar police station does not name any accused, church members have said that the local Member of the Legislative Assembly, Pratap Sarnaik, has erected banners in the area to announce the bhoomipujan for the boundary wall for the playground. Vartak Nagar police said that a complaint was filed, but declined to comment further.

Melwyn Fernandes, a member of Our Lady of Mercy church, said that the bhoomipujan was illegal because the ground’s status as a playground has not been settled by the courts. "The church plot is highly disputed and the matter is subjudice in various courts including the High Court and Upalokayukta. The ceremony is being done without the consent of civic authorities," said Fernandes.

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