Row over shifting Anjadiv Church

| 24 August 2002 23:37 IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Goa as well as at the centre has once again come under a clout of being anti-minorities, but this time over an issue of shifting of five-century old Christian church for the national security purpose.

The Christian community in Goa is agitated over the defence ministry's directive to shift the Church of Our Lady of Brotas, built in 1500 on the Anjadiv island in Goa-Karnataka border area, due to the Sea Bird, Asia's biggest naval project built by the Indian government.

While the Sea Bird officials have already instructed to shift the Church by May next year, the BJP chief minister Manohar Parrikar as well as Pratapsing Rane, the opposition leader and former Congress chief minister, have supported the move of the defence ministry.

"The hidden agenda of the BJP is slowly coming into action", alleges Goenchea Krisavancho Ekvott (Voice of Goan Christians) as the chief minister made the statement last week in the Assembly, without even taking the local Church into confidence.

Surprised with the stand of the Congress, they are now faxing protest letters even to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, besides prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, requesting their intervention.

The Anjadiv island was handed over to the defence ministry over a decade ago, under a condition that the pilgrims would be allowed to visit the island at the annual feast held on 2 February. Church of St Francis de Assisi, yet another one on the island, is now almost in ruins.

The historical Church however enjoys an archaeological value as it was built much before the Portuguese invaded Goa. In fact it is considered to be the first Latin rite church in Asia, which was built even 150 years before the Taj Mahal was built by Shahjahan.

The church at the Anjadiv island - approximately 3.70 lakh hectares - falls under the jurisdiction of Archdiocese of Goa. however, the Bishop of Karwar (Karnataka) has been entrusted with the religious activities there and the parish priest of nearby church at Binaga has been visiting there regularly.

The letter sent by Sea Bird station commander Comdr B R Rao to the Catholic Association of Goa intimated to make necessary arrangements to shift the church from the island by May 2003. The construction activities are progressing at a fast pace and visitors will not be allowed, keeping the national security in mind, it stated.

Incidentally, while handing over the island to the defence ministry somewhere around 1989 during the Congress regime, the Goa government had put a condition to allow the religious activities there. Even the BJP chief minister Parrikar had released Rs 25,000 last year, to repair the church.

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