Tahasildar orders demolition of Kandhamal (Nandagiri) Church

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NANDAGIRI, (Br K J Markose) – Nandagiri is a resettlement colony – after the Kandhmal communal violence of August 2008, when a number of Christian families were not allowed to return to their native villages. Such families were resettled at new colonies. One of them is Nandagiri in G Udayagiri Tahasil. There are 54 Catholic and 17 Pentecostal families in this resettlement colony. From June 2009, they have been worshipping at a plot of land close to their settlement. Slowly they started building a church.

[The Nandagiri settlers are relocated Christian people from Betticola, who refused to be Hindus while their Hindu relatives still remain in Betticola. The Hindu radicals want these Christians to return to Betticola village, but on condition that they come back as Hindus. The Christians refused to do so. Hence, the administration instead of ensuring the return of the Christians to their village went ahead to relocated them in Nandagiri as per Sangha Parivar wish.

Betticola village hit the headlines as there was a Catholic parish andparishChurch, which was razed to the ground with no sign of a church foundation, and hence the administration did not bother about it. It is in this background, after shifting rehabilitation camps 5 times that the administration settled them in this relocated camp called Nandagiri. The people call it Shanti Nagar. The administration claims to have provided all facilities [including place of worship] for the people to live like Christians.]

When families were settled at Nandagiri no land was allotted for places of worship. The then District Collector (Dr Krisdhan Kumar) had verbally told that the place where worship was being conducted, would be gradually allotted for a church. That was why people slowly, as and when they got some cash built their church. Building is yet to be completed due to lack of funds.

The leader of local Christian community (Mr. Krisant Mallick) had applied to the collector for settlement of land in the name of the church. To his shock he received a notice from the Tahasildar asking him to present himself on 17 Aug and show cause as why action should not be initiated against him.

Mr Krisant Mallick pleaded that they have no other place for church and that they have been worshipping on that plot of land since June 2008.

The Tahasildar gave an order as follows: “You are directed to leave the place and take away all things and demolish the chruch under construction within 30 days, or else all things and properties shall be seized and the church under construction shall be demolished.”

Mr Krisant Mallick says that he along with his community will resist it because it was due to his faith /worship only he had to leave his native village.

Mr Amiya Pradhan a social activist says that people’s fundamental right to worship is being infringed by the order of the Tahasildar.

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