Today the Kerala government intervened to stop the removal of crosses planted by a Church on encroached land in Panchalimedu, a hill near Sabarimala. Last week a village officer had ordered to demolish and remove the crosses. An FIR has also been registered against a group of unidentified men who had placed a Trishul in front of the illegally planted crosses.
Reportedly, the Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s office directly intervened to stop the removal of the crosses. The Revenue Departement officials had previously ordered the church to remove around 14 crosses from the encroached land, the deadline which ends today.
The St. Mary’s church based at Kanayankavayal in Idukki has claimed to have installed the crosses 65 years ago. The district collector H. Dineshan has said that the crosses would not be removed, despite them being planted on revenue land, as it is a matter of faith. He also added that since this matter involved both the faiths, more pondering is required before making a decision.
Panchalimedu a sacred place for local Hindus named after Panchali/Draupadi, is believed to be a place inhabited by Pandavas during the 12 years of exile. Ayyappa devotees at times choose to climb up this hill to catch a glimpse of the Makaravilakku (holy flame).
The revenue land also includes an ancient Bhuvaneswari temple, under the Travancore Devaswom Board. The board President A Padmakumar said, “the Bhuvaneshwari Devi temple at Panchalimedu is the original location (Moolakshetram) of Valliyangattu temple. Only remnants of the temple are left at the place. We had 269 acres at Panchalimedu which we lost over a period of time. I had submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister to initiate steps to recover the land. There are some issues at the place. But the board and the government had been making arrangements for Sabarimala pilgrims to view Makaravilakku from Panchalimedu every year. We have plans to retrieve the land and restore the temple”.
Yesterday, as reported by The New Indian Express, the Idukki RDO M P Vinodh said that a demolition order would be sent to the temple as well. He said, “the crosses and the temple will be demolished with support from the temple and church authorities and if they are not willing, the department will take action”. He said that it was important to remove encroachments so as to better facilitate security arrangements for the Ayyappa devotees.
Two days ago, several images went viral on Twitter that showed a Trishul being placed in front of the crosses. A group of men reportedly came in a vehicle and had placed the Trishul as a sign of protest against the Church. An FIR has been filed by the police, the men are yet to be identified.
Meanwhile, a Hindu activist Prateesh said, “There are not just 14, but hundreds of crosses at Panchalimedu. We have obtained all official records regarding the ownership of land and will file a writ petition before the Kerala High Court for removal of encroachments”.
It is being alleged that the Church was able to encroach upon these sacred lands with the help of the communist government in Kerala. Christian organisations had made a similar attempt to grab the Sabarimala lands in Nilakkal by claiming that they had unearthed a stone cross established by Jesus’ apostle Saint Thomas in 57 A.D.