Mumbai, Oct 31 (IANS) — The rightwing Shiv Sena, the Archbishop of the Catholic Church and Muslim and Buddhist groups are up in arms against the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) after 144 religious structures were demolished (see previous report).
Civic officials say the demolished structures were mainly Hindu temples, although a few Buddha Viharas and Muslim dargahs were also brought down.
Angered by the demolition, leaders of the Shiv Sena in the BMC alleged that the civic body was doing nothing about commercial structures built along religious structures facing the hammer.
“If the illegal temples and other structures are being demolished, so should the shops and commercial structures,” argued Prabhakar Shinde, leader of the Sena in the civic body.
Archbishop Cardinal Ivan Dias of the Catholic Church said numerous crosses dotting the old Christian hamlets of Mumbai were a “legacy of faith” constructed by a thankful population following the great plague of the early 20th century.
The cardinal, however, sounded conciliatory and said a mutually agreeable solution could be found regarding structures that stood in the way of road improvement and local development.
Meanwhile, the civic body has identified 1,430 illegal shrines all over the city. Information about them would be made available to Bombay High Court in the next few weeks.
The civic body had originally set a target of demolishing at least 100 illegal shrines encroaching on public property by November 12, when it has to submit an action taken report on the matter to the court.
Officials said all the structures were encroachments on public property after 1964. Structures existing prior to that would not be demolished. Most structures were roadside temples as the authorities have decided to defer knocking down mosques until after the holy month of Ramadan.
Though a potentially explosive issue in the communally surcharged city, civic officials say they have so far persuaded owners and trustees of the structures to allow the demolition to go off peacefully.
“In all these places, trustees and owners of the structures removed idols and other items of religious importance,” an official said.
In some cases, idols recovered from the demolished structures would be immersed in the sea or installed elsewhere.
Members of the Christian community have obtained a stay order from the court against demolishing crosses in various parts of the city. Many crosses were left untouched when the private land around them were acquired for widening roads, said community members.
However devotees themselves demolished a cross Thursday after being convinced that it was an illegal construction.
© Copyright 2001-2003 IANS India Private Limited, New Delhi. Posted on Religioscope with permission.