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Arunachal Christians protest bar on Tawang church

Members of the Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) on Saturday carried out rallies across Arunachal Pradesh to protest a high-level committee’s report that allegedly went against a controversial church in Tawang, a district dominated by the Buddhist Monpa community.

The ACF said the report was biased against the Christians and a recommendation for relocating the church was not feasible. The three-member panel on the Tawang church issue is headed by State Environment and Forest Minister Mama Natung.

The construction of the church in Tawang was stopped in October 2020 following complaints by two groups — the Indigenous Faith and Cultural Society of Arunachal Pradesh and the Monpa Mimang Tsogpa — that the structure was illegal. The district’s Land Revenue and Survey officer later lodged a first information report against the pastor concerned, who was arrested but released on bail.

The district officials had then said the pastor had been served several notices to stop the construction of the church behind the district planning officer’s quarters in the Tawang All India Radio Colony and dismantle the structures. The last notice on the basis of a Supreme Court directive was served in 2017.

‘Application ignored’

But the Christians in Tawang said the church had stood on the plot they had occupied in 1999 and they started reconstructing it in 2015 after the department concerned “ignored our application for land allotment initiated in 2003”.

“We had been demanding a proper mechanism to resolve the issue but the recommendations of the panel the State government had set up are not acceptable. How can the Christian community in Tawang relocate the church within six months when there is no designated or clearly demarcated land in Tawang,” ACF president Toko Teki said.

He accused Chief Minister Pema Khandu, an MLA from the district, of neglecting the issue despite being in a position to resolve it quickly. The ACF leader also said the two MPs from Arunachal Pradesh — Minister Kiren Rijiju and Tapir Gao — let the Christians down.

The church issue-related committee had on May 23 submitted its report to Mr. Khandu, recommending compliance with a verdict of the Supreme Court to strictly follow the Unauthorised Religious Structures (Regulation, Removal and Relocation) Policy, 2010.

The committee also recommended the shifting of the church to another place in Tawang, withdrawal of cases against some Christian leaders, and the adherence to the provisions of the Arunachal Pradesh Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 2003, besides the protection of religious structures constructed on legally-acquired land.

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2022 11:52:56 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/arunachal-christians-protest-bar-on-tawang-church/article65542331.ece