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Shiv Sena to organise 'kar seva' to save heritage church in Mumbai
September 30, 2003 04:52 IST
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Nirupam on Monday said his party was contemplating launching a 'kar seva' to raise funds to save an over 400-year-old dilapidated church, located in an industrial premise, at Marol in northwest Mumbai.
The Portuguese built the St John Baptist church in 1579. Regular prayer services were held till 1840 before it was abandoned following an outbreak of plague. However, local villagers continued to visit it till 1970 when the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation acquired the land surrounding the church and agreed to maintain it. The current agitation is the outcome of MIDC's failure to keep its promise.
Nirupam told reporters in Mumbai that a group of East Indians, original habitants of the city, had approached the Sena to save the church, which lay in a pathetic condition owing to the MIDC's neglect.
"The Sena decided to take up the issue and fight for the rights of the Christian minority. The community had earlier made several appeals to the Democratic Front government, but without any success. After the Sena took up the issue, the government showed interest and talked about handing the church back to the archdiocese of Mumbai for upkeep," Nirupam said.
"However, if the government does not move quickly, we will launch a kar seva to save this ancient heritage of Mumbai. We do not want any token gesture from the Congress. What we expect is concrete action to save the church."
He denied the campaign was a political stunt in view of the forthcoming assembly elections or an effort to woo the minorities after having hounded them so far.
"The Sena does not follow the appeasement policy of the Congress. It is merely trying to help a community get back its right to offer prayers. We may have a poor track record (in fighting for the rights of minorities), but don't you want it to change?"
Former billiards champion Michael Ferreira, who is also part of the campaign to save the church, confirmed it was the East Indian community that had approached the Sena after all requests for help from the state government failed.
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