Mumbai: Over a dozen crosses and graves were found damaged and desecrated by unknown culprits at a cemetery attached to St. Michael’s Church situated in Mumbai’s suburb Mahim today.
The incident outraged the Catholic community, which demanded full protection of the churches and graveyards in the megapolis.
Fr. Bernard Lancy Pinto, Parish Priest at St. Michael’s Church stated that certain miscreants entered the church premises today at around 6 am and vandalised about 18 crosses in the church cemetery.
An FIR has been lodged at Mahim police station and an investigation has begun. “The police have assured us that they will arrest the persons concerned based on the CCTV footage and the statement of witnesses and will take appropriate legal action,” Fr. Pinto said. He added that a further investigation is also being conducted to check for any security lapse.
Condemning the incident, the Bombay Catholic Sabha expressed its shock at the “mindless” destruction and desecration of the graveyard.
“We urge the police to ensure that those responsible be arrested, investigated and proceeded for prosecution,” Dolphy D’Souza
President, The Bombay Catholic Sabha, said.
Meanwhile, a Nationalist Congress Party leader, Clyde Castro, too called for prompt action against those who vandalized the graves connected to St. Michael’s Church.
It may also be mentioned that St. Michael’s Church, one of the oldest churches built by the Potuguese in around 1534 A.D., was very much in news on 27 June 2008, it as noticed that a picture of Jesus called “the Divine Mercy”, showed some red spots which were believed to be blood near the heart of Jesus. The spots were noticed on the day at 8:30 PM, on the occasion of the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and were termed a “miracle” by thousands of devotees who visited the church.
In the meantime, a tweet by an advocate doing rounds in social media today further agitated the Catholics, who brought out a silent candlelight protest march from St. Peter’s Church to the St. Peters Seaside Cemetery at Kardeshwari Mandir Marg, Bandra (West), in Mumbai today evening.
The said tweet by the advocate, Ashish Shelar, stated that following his demand made before the Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai, the Assistant Municipal Commissioner of H/West Ward of the city withdrew the land acquisition notice to St. Peter’s Sea Side Cemetery.
“The facts stated by Adv. Ashish Shelar are totally misleading…, being Advocate he is supposed to be well acquainted with law of the land. It may be recalled that the notice of acquisition has been issued by the Joint Municipal Commissioner, ( Zone –III), whereas the alleged notice of withdrawal is signed by Assistant Municipal Commissioner, H/West Ward, BMC, (a low-ranking official than Jt. Municipal Commissioner, ( Zone –III),” Dolphy D’Souza said. He claimed: “The notice of alleged withdrawal signed by the Assistant Municipal Commissioner, H/West Ward, BMC is improper, unauthorized and not in consonance with the provisions of law for the simple reason the notice of acquisition having been issued by Joint Municipal Commissioner, (Zone –III), has to be withdrawn by the same officer and not by Assistant Municipal Commissioner, H/West Ward of BhrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation.”
The Bombay Catholic Sabha president further claimed the ‘so-called’ withdrawal letter signed by Assistant Municipal Commissioner, H/West Ward, BMC, “is merely keeping the issue in abeyance not solving the issue at all”.
The alleged notice of withdrawal from the said Assistant Municipal Commissioner was sent to some local politicians on WhatsApp instead of being served on St. Peter’s Church to whom the original notice was issued by the Joint Commissioner (Zone 111), D’Souza said, claiming that St. Peters Church had not yet been served any such notice.
“If Ashish Shelar is really concerned about the welfare of the Christian Community, let him demand unconditional withdrawal of the letter to be signed by non-other than Jt. Municipal Commissioner, ( Zone –III), who issued the notice of acquisition in the first place. We further demand that 18.3 metres (60 ft.) D.P Road adjacent to both Christian and Jewish Cemeteries is fully developed since almost 50% of D.P Road is already developed and in place. The hutments which are still occupying the balance 50% of 18.3 metres (60 ft.) D.P. Road should be vacated and slum dwellers should be rehabilitated by Corporation elsewhere since it has PAP Tenements in its possession,” he said.
The Sabha, in the “larger interest” of the Christian community, decided to take a “conscious call” that it will not surrender even an inch of land. “We, therefore, appeal to the community members to join us in large numbers to show their solidarity for a just cause, since the issue is not yet resolved,” D’Souza said.
– global bihari bureau