“ON the onehand, the BMC has already contributed to the lack of governance and corruption. Now, they also want to disturb the dead by demolishing our graveyard. We condemn this,” shouted a protester outside Our Lady of Remedy Church on S V Road in Kandivali (West) on Sunday.
The protester was part of a human chain of at least 700 people, including residents from across Mumbai and belonging to various communities, who had gathered to protest the BMC’s plan to claim a 7-metre area of the church land for widening an arterial road. A portion of the graveyard of the heritage church and a heritage cross on the Poinsur depot land are set to be claimed.
In response to the notice issued to the church and the removal of street shops in February, members of NGOs such as Guardians United, Save Our Land (SOUL), Watchdog Foundation and Church In the City have brought together parishioners of Our Lady of Remedy and other churches of Mumbai. Since then, the NGOs, parishioners and even the local residents have met regularly to register their protest in the matter. On Sunday, Christians from 10 to 15 other parishes in Mumbai, including those at Malad, Vikhroli, Andheri, Borivali, and people from other communities joined the protest.
Dolphy D’souza, spokesperson of the Save Our Land (SOUL) team, said, “The cemetery has 105 graves. After demolition, the area will be reduced to 50 per cent. People will have to travel to Sewri, Sion and Oshiwara to bury their beloved, making it more difficult and costlier for people in mourning. For at least 3.5 lakh Christians, living between Dahisar and Khar, there is not a single Christian cemetery from Borivali to Khar.”
Ghansyam Gupta (47) and Hansraj Bhooj (37), both vendors at the weekly market that will also have to close down, said, “This market has been around for over 80 years. There are vendors from all communities here who regularly attend all meetings of the protest.”
During his protest speech, Father Austin of St Anthony’s Church, Malvani, alleged that the protesters could have sat in the middle of the road, but they didn’t.
He brought a surge of motivation in the protest with his slogan “Progress without justice is wrong”. At the end of the protest, both D’souza and Nicholas Almeida, trustees of Watchdog Foundation, claimed that if the BMC did not heed their complaints, they would field their own candidates in the February 2017 BMC elections.
The protesters said that they would meet every Tuesday to evaluate the progress of their struggle. “We will not allow the BMC plan to come through. We will fight till the end,” said D’souza.