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Mumbai: Poisar church parishioners take protest to BMC ward office

Aggrieved with the BMC proposal to remove the heritage cross and portion of the graveyard for expansion of SV Road at Poisar in Kandivali, the members of Catholic community protested outside the local BMC office on Saturday.

Around 500 people marched from Our Lady of Remedy Church in Kandivali to the R-South BMC office as the community members were against the idea of dislodging the cross and parting away with the graveyard area. Protestors were holding placards with message to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

‘We are the BMC – Boulder Mighty Catholics’ read one of the placards, while another one said ‘Standing hand in hand to protect every inch of our land’.

Dolphy D’souza from Save our Land (SOUL), one of the supporting groups, said, “The protest is against the unjust demand of the BMC to demolish the heritage cross, a portion of the graveyard of Our Lady of Remedy which has a history of over 450 years and some of the other church property. We, Christians, are soft targets and so the politicians and BMC officials are exploiting us.”

Though the rally was peaceful as the protestors reached the R-South BMC ward office they started shouting slogans like, ‘BMC ki dadagiri nahi chalegi, nahi chalegi’ and ‘Ajoy Mehta hai, hai’.

A delegation of the protestors were allowed inside the ward office to meet the civic officials, but the members were upset as senior civic officials -- the deputy municipal commissioner (DMC) and assistant municipal commissioner (AMC) -- were not there for the meeting. It was the Executive Engineer, R-South, Sunil Pabikar who attended the delegation members and heard their say on the issue.

“DMC and AMC have gone for a top level meeting,” Pabikar told the protestors. He further informed the delegation that since the subject is very sensitive it would be appropriate to meet higher civic authorities and possibly municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta to get the subject addressed.

With civic elections scheduled early next year, the community is likely to take up the issue during the polls and their anger could well be reflected in votes. Alfi Quinny from Poisar village said, “We may be a minority, but collectively, we make up 20 per cent of the electorate and a difference of 500 votes can make or break a candidate. The tide is rising against those in power who are crushing us in the name of development. The Poisar church makes everyone passing this road say a prayer, on the curses of the dead nothing good can come about.”

Meanwhile Godfrey Pimenta from Watchdog Foundation said, “We did a study of various points on SV Road from Mulji Nagar Junction in Kandivali to Kamal Kunj in Goregaon, the road width is not more than 60 feet anywhere. Why is there a need for a 90 feet road near Poisar Church? By taking a part of the graveyard, the dead will be desecrated. There is no burial ground nearby and many have to go as far as Oshiwara, this existing one is also being denied.”

“We need to thank the BMC and politicians for teaching our community to come on the streets. We have learnt to agitate with protests like this only because of them. Today’s morcha was only a trailer, if the BMC does not back off, we will have an even bigger agitation, We will have an agitation at Azad Maidan soon and also try to get an appointment with Ajoy Mehta to discuss this issue as well as the new Development Plan (DP) which has again targeted us by showing our properties as something else,” said D’souza.

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