The St. Michael’s church near West Hill here has landed in fresh controversy with the Army blocking a lane along the church and the local people removing the Army barricade. The century-old church has been the central point of a tug-of-war between the Army and the local people, including the church committee, for over three years now.
The Army claims that the church and the land around it belong to the Defence Department while the local people claim that it is ‘Purambokku.’
The church committee has moved the local civil court against the Army’s move to claim the land and the case is pending in the court. Recently, the Army tried to block a lane that passes through the church premises using stones and metal wire as part of its policy to mark the boundaries of Defence land all over the country. The local residents immediately removed the barrier under the leadership of Corporation councillor C.S. Sathyabhama. The residents have been using the lane as a short-cut to Chungam Junction for a long time.
The St. Michael’s church committee claims that the land where the church is located was purchased by a Roman Catholic Priest, Fr. Daniel Domsy, in 1885 from Chekkutty Koya, a local landlord. The church is said to have functioned as a school for some time. Before the formation of the Kozhikode diocese, it was under the Latin Catholic Diocese in Mangalore and became a sub station of Devamatha Cathedral in 1923, the committee claims. The church is said to be one of the oldest in Kozhikode, second to Devamatha cathedral.
As per the documents collected by the local people from Regional Archives, 1.10 acres of land with survey number 176 is ‘Purambokku.’ They have produced a copy of the survey settlement register published in December 1902 as proof. However, the Army claims that the land has been in its custody for more than a century and refutes allegations of encroachment. The Revenue Department documents too support this claim. As per the Army record, the church was built for British soldiers and, after Independence, it became a dhobi ghat. It was later given to local people, on their request, to resume worship. The church committee has appealed to higher authorities, including the District Collector, to intervene before the public loses rights over the lane.