It was a wet and rainy afternoon in Mumbai on Monday as the umbrellas were up and the muck all around at Azad Maidan. But the downpour did not stop the crowds from gathering as Catholics from across Mumbai came together to protest the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Development Plan 2034.

Catholics gather to protest at Azad maidan against DP 2034. Pic/ Bipin Kokate
Catholics gather to protest at Azad maidan against DP 2034. Pic/ Bipin Kokate

Sedric D'souza from Vikhroli took an off from work to join the protest. He said, “I am from St Francis Xavier parish and our church has been marked as municipal housing. We have been silent for a very long time. Now is the time to fight for our lands and churches."

St Joseph's Church, also in Vikhroli has been marked as a school and the graveyard reserved for railways. Mario Rodrigues from the Bombay Catholic of that parish said, “We had written letters to our ward officer and asked for the errors in the pervious DP to be amended. We did not get a reply and when this DP came, there were worse mistakes. In Kandivali, Our Lady of Remedy is facing loss of their graveyard. If we keep quiet, even we will be in their shoes.”

Ivan Dias from Holy Cross Church in Kurla claims even his parish church has been marked as a school. "In addition our gaothan is missing from the DP plan. The original inhabitants of Mumbai are being wiped out by this move, it seems. We have prayed for change for a long time, now we are coming on the streets to demand our right to live and pray."

A number of priests and nuns were also there to protest. Sr Nirmala Francis who had come from Goregaon said, "We need to support the lay people and not just with prayers. Coming here, braving the rain and muck is our way to tell the BMC that we want our churches and institutions recognized. Jesus would also want us to do this rather than sit and allow injustice to prevail."

Muslims were also present to support the Catholic community. Shaikh Shamim from Makhdum Ali Trust said, "Mahim dargah has been marked as a playground. As minorities, we feel the pain of our Christian brothers and sisters. We have come to join them. A group of 50 of us are here."

Nicholas Almeida and Godfrey Pimenta from Watchdog Foundation, Gordon D’souza from the Bombay Catholic Sabha, Vivian D’souza from the Bombay East Indian Association and Dolphy D’souza from Save Our Land met Vivek More, deputy chief engineer, DP and Hiren Daftardar from town planning at the BMC headquarters and gave them a letter.

"We were to tear the DP and give roses for the officials who made the document that has so many loop holes. It seems as though the officials sat in their air condition offices and wrote. The field visit and on location details are missing," said Almeida.

Dolphy D’souza added, "We gave the officials the roses and they promised to look into our grievances and review the DP. As a community we showed our numbers and successfully silently protested."

More said, "We have received the Catholic community’s letter. The matter will be looked into."