Giant cross demolished, tension at Kerala’s top tourist spot
By Matters India Reporter
Munnar: Tension prevailed at Munnar on April 20 when a demolition team razed a massive cross as part of a drive to make Kerala’s top tourist location encroachment free.
Police have arranged tight security cover for the eviction team and imposed prohibitory orders in some parts of Munnar in Idukki district as a precautionary measure to avoid trouble.
However, hundreds of villagers flocked to Pappathichola, a village in Devikulam division, where the 25-feet tall cross (Bheeman Kurisu) was pulled down. Authorities alleged that religious groups had encroached more than 120 hectares of land in that village in the guise of spiritual tourism. The team also removed a number of temporary sheds that had come up on revenue land.
Munnar, a hill station located around 1,600 meters above mean sea in the Western Ghats, is more than 125 km east of Kochi, Kerala’s commercial capital. It attracts most of more than 1 million people who visit Kerala a year.
On April 19, Idukki district collector G.R. Gokul decided to remove unauthorized structures in Munnar after discussions with Devikulam subcollector Venkitaraman Sriram. Sriram would submit a list of major encroachments to Gokul within a week.
The team led Sriram reportedly reached the spot around 7:30 am started pulling down the cross.
Some local people tried to block the team by leaving their vehicles on the road. The administration used excavators to clear the blocks while the police removed the protesters.
Kerala Revenue minister E. Chandrasekharan too approved the evacuation.
The administration has asked its officials to submit a report on encroachers at places such as Pallivasal, Chithirapuram, Pothamedu and Lekshmi and constructed resorts and cottages.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has called a high-level meeting to discuss the eviction on April 21.
According to television reports, the cross was erected by a neo-Christian group called Spirit in Jesus. This is the revenue department’s third attempt at razing down the cross. Protesters had prevented the officials during the previous two attempts.