The state commission for minorities has recommended to the BJP government to constitute a Wakf Board-like body to regulate and manage institutions and properties in Madhya Pradesh belonging to the Christian community.
Christians own scores of properties such as schools, churches and cemeteries across Madhya Pradesh, with market value such properties running into hundreds of crores of rupees. While the Protestants have favoured such a body, the more powerful Catholics are against the idea.
The division in the Christian community has kept the idea alive, which was mooted five years ago.
The commission at its meeting on Tuesday sent a revised recommendation clarifying the body would not interfere in religious affairs, and that it was needed because Christian properties were in the hands of trusts, individuals and organisations, and not regulated.
The commission’s proposal has also argued that other faiths have certain bodies to manage their properties.
Commission member Anand Bernard told The Indian Express that the original proposal had been revised to guarantee non-interference in religious affairs.
He said the proposal could not be implemented before due to legal hassles, but noted that the High Court while rejecting the petition filed by the Catholics had held that there was nothing unconstitutional about the proposed body. The petitioners also lost in the Supreme Court after which the commission revived the idea, Bernard said.
Fr Anand Muttungal, chief coordinator of Isai Mahasangh and former spokesman of Catholic Church, who had challenged the proposal first in the High Court and then in the Supreme Court, contested the commission’s version and claimed that he actually withdrew the SLP in the apex court after the state government said it was not considering any such proposal.
Bhopal archdiocese spokesman Fr P J Johny said the Catholics will continue to oppose the board arguing that its properties were well maintained and regulated.
The commission had in the past received complaints from Protestant organisations that their properties were being sold, encroached upon or vandalised. They wanted a body to protect their institutions and properties, said Bernard.
The recommendation has been sent to the CM for consideration. Bernard claimed that the state government was supportive of the idea.