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Church in Thanjavur prevents residents of Nirmala Nagar from constructing a Ganesha temple on community land

An earlier petition by the Church was already dismissed by the HC saying "the petitioner made an attempt to convert the plot reserved for community purpose into private use.

Tamil Nadu: A few days ago, a Church in Thanjavur opposed and prevented the construction of a Ganesha temple by the residents of Nirmala Nagar. The temple was to be constructed on a plot reserved for the residents of Nirmala Nagar as ascertained by the judgement of the Madras High Court. Despite this, the Church opposes the construction claiming that it is their private property.

Reportedly, the residents of Nirmala Nagar had made all the preparations required for constructing the temple and were digging the ground to lay down the first stone. However, the Church forced them to stop the work, flaring up communal tensions. The police hoping to resolve the situation amicably arranged talks between the two communities. Currently, the Hindu Munnani is in talks with the Church and as of now, they are yet to settle the dispute.

The Thanjavur Diocese Society had filed a petition against the residents of Nirmala Nagar in an attempt to prevent the residents from using the plot. The disputed plot is divided into three parts- A, B and C and was earmarked for usage by the residents of Nirmala Nagar. The plot-A with an area of 8,057 sq.ft was used by the petitioner to build a Church. The plot-B (26,400 sq.ft.) and plot-C (30,710 sq.ft) continued to be the reserved area for community use.

The reserved plot has a playground, Municipal bore well and also a summer storage tank for storing drinking water for the residents. The residents filed an injunction suit after they found out that the Church had tried to put up a fence in an attempt to convert the reserved plot and to sell them to third parties.

The Madurai district bench of the Madras High Court in 2008 had delivered a judgement in favour of the Nirmala Nagar residents. It said that the disputed plot has been clearly used for several public purposes such as the opening of a vegetable market and the drinking water arrangements made by the Municipality. The Church knew of this fact and never objected to it before. The court also noted that as per Article 21 “Right to live with human dignity” of the Indian Constitution, which includes protection of health and right to clean environment, the disputed plot should be kept open for community use so that the children and other residents of Nirmal Nagar may have a healthy life.

Following this, the Thanjavur Diocese Society had filed a review petition in 2009. The High Court in 2017 had dismissed the petition saying that the courts had come to a clear finding that “the petitioner made an attempt to convert the plot reserved for community purpose for a private purpose”.

Several churches in India have been accused of land grabbing. In Kerala, a Church has been accused of planting crosses over the sacred forest land of Panchalimedu near Sabarimala, allegedly with the help of the communist government. Recently, a village officer has ordered that the crosses are to be demolished and removed by Monday.

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