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Karnataka: Jesus statue and crosses on a hill removed by local authorities after local groups allege encroachment and conversions

"The statue and the cross have been wrapped in a cloth and handed over to the church authorities while the other belongings, like furniture, have been shifted out," said an official from the local administration.

On Monday, civic authorities of Devanahalli near Bengaluru removed a statue of Jesus Christ and 14 crosses at a Catholic centre, following allegations of illegal encroachment and religious conversion from Hindu residents of the village, reports Deccan Herald.

According to the reports, the demolition drive came days after Hindu groups and villagers had staged a protest at the place on February 23 against the illegal statue that was allegedly built on government land. The local villagers had also accused that priests at the prayer venue were converting local people.

The church officials claimed that the land measuring 4.20 acres was allotted for the burial place in the village. As there were several burial places already and also the Catholic Christians had sought a land grant from the government, the district administration had passed a resolution allowing the Catholic Christian Association of Devanahalli to utilise the land for the community purpose.

However, the Hindu activists and villagers have alleged the church authorities had obtained the government plot illegally. The villagers claimed that the church had not only encroached the land but had renamed the hill as ‘Mahima betta’.

Following the severe protests, the officials, led by the tahsildar, conducted a meeting and removed the statue of Jesus Christ installed atop the Mahima Betta amidst high security.

“The statue and the cross have been wrapped in a cloth and handed over to the church authorities while the other belongings, like furniture, have been shifted out,” said an official from the local administration.

Meanwhile, Archbishop of the church has released a statement, claiming, “During a meeting with tahsildar, villagers said that the presence of Christians and prayers are of no problem and why should some outsiders come and disturb the harmony of the village. It is unfortunate and regrettable that the police, bowing to the pressure of a few outsiders, have forcibly removed the statue of Jesus. It is a blow to the communal harmony of the people in our villages and also a violation of religious freedom guaranteed to us by the Indian Constitution.”

The controversy comes on the heels of a similar dispute in Karnataka over the issue of construction of a 114-foot statue of Jesus Christ in Kanakapura in the state. Senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar had sponsored the construction of a 114-foot statue of Jesus Christ, however, the project had met with severe protests from the local Hindus as the land had belonged to the government and was illegally granted to Christian communities.

Following the protest, the BJP government had decided to take a relook at the land sanctioned by former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.

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