The increase in the evangelical activities of Christian organisations in Andhra Pradesh has now caused a greater worry in the hinterlands of the southern state as there has been a rise in illegal construction of churches and the authorities have failed to check the expansion and illegal activities of the church.
The recent expansion of the Church in Andhra Pradesh, especially the Church pastors forcefully evicting Scheduled Caste families from their homes in Dorasanipalli Village in Kadapa to illegally construct a Church is one of the many incidents, which has now evoked severe protests from Hindus in the area.
According to a report by Organiser, the Legal Rights Protection Forum (LRPF) has written a letter to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and District Collector of Kadapa seeking action against the Church authorities for the crimes committed against the families of Scheduled Caste communities.
Reportedly, an illegal church was being constructed by the Church authorities in the Moolasthanam Agraharam Village in the East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, in a residential area where only Hindu families live.
Villagers protest against the construction of the church
As soon as the construction began, the villagers opposed to the construction of the Church as it was illegal. The locals also said that the church in the village cause disturbance to the peace and public order in the village. The pleas of the villagers to the Evangelists to stop the construction, however, was ignored by the Church authorities.
The villagers then decided to approach the Panchayat and the police. The villagers of the Moolathanam Agraharam filed an RTI with the local authorities. The RTI reply stated that there was no permission accorded for construction of the Church. The order issued by the Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Department of Andhra Pradesh mandated that construction of any religious place of worship can be permitted only if none of the neighbour’s object and after obtaining the due permission from the District Collector.
Reportedly, the Church had failed to obtain any such permission and the residents of the village had objected to its construction. Despite this, the construction of the temple was not stopped. The villagers not only approached the Village Revenue Officer, but also the higher officials including Mandal Revenue Officer and District Collector asking to stop the construction. Shockingly, none of them intervened in the matter and instead, the local police began to harass the Hindus for complaining.
As authorities ignored their plea, the villagers sat on a hunger strike to stop the construction of the illegal church. However, the local police officials increased harassing the villagers, who were often called to the police station and threatened with the filing of criminal cases if they did not stop their protests.
Local authorities succumb to church’s influence
As the church began to influence the local authorities, the villagers then approached the District Superintendent of Police to complain about the negligence of the local police and requested justice in the entire issue. However, the villagers did not find any solution to the issue. With all options exhausted, the villagers have now approached the National Human Rights Commission in the hope of getting justice.
The villagers of Moolasthanam Agraharam have written a letter to the Chairperson of the NHRC explaining the entire issue. The letter reads, “local administration to district officials are treating us as second-grade citizens of India, not even responding to our issues, moreover threatening us for raising our concerns and behaving as if we are refugees of other nations settled here”.
The letter also stated that their fundamental right to live peacefully without any fear has been violated. “Not even considering our complaints and targeting us for raising our issues is nothing but suppressing our fundamental ‘Right to Equality’ which is guaranteed by Constitution of India”, the letter to NHRC read.
In their appeal, the villagers have also sought the intervention of the NHRC to the Director-General of Police, Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh, District Collector of East Godavari, District Superintendent of Police and urged them to initiate an enquiry in this matter and to take strict remedial action to halt construction of the illegal church which is detrimental to public peace and order.