Catholic mission sealed, priest ousted in Madhya Pradesh
By Matters India Reporter
Bhopal: A central Indian state government has sealed a two-decade old Catholic mission over alleged discrepancy in its land record and conversion. However, the Church authorities deny the charges.
The administration of Guna district in Madhya Pradesh state sealed a boarding school in Mohanpur village that catered to tribal children.
The mission station comes under Sagar diocese. Its priest in-charge Father Siljo Kidangan told Matters India on September 19 that the administration had asked him to leave the place against his wish.
“The district administration sealed our boarding for tribal boys and shifted the students to a government boarding on September 12 ignoring our pleas against such a move,” said the priest who has since been shifted to another nearby mission.
He said he left the mission after his stay in the village became increasingly difficult.
The Syro-Malabar diocese started the mission in the interior village in 1997 to help local tribal people who had no access to education and other development.
“Even today the local population is not well connected to modern development and unable to provide education to their children,” Father Kidangan said.
“We have been offering hostel facilities for students from poor families who study in a nearby government school. Among them brilliant students were picked up admitted to good schools for better education,” he explained.
“But now the administration under mounting pressure from the right wing Hindu groups, sealed the hostel and shifted the boys on the ground that our land record missed a signature from the district collector,” the priest said.
The Church purchased the land from local people after completing legal formalities. However, a minor issue, was blown out of proportion and the government took over the Church property, the priest bemoaned.
“The government should have allowed us to rectify the error in the record as our property was not an encroached land and we are working for the poorest of the poor.”
The priest said they have moved an application in the Madhya Pradesh High Court for relief and they hope for a favorable decision even though the court process might take some time.
A local villager on condition of anonymity told Matters India that “the land document is not the issue at all. Most of the villagers live there and they don’t have valid land documents.”
He said the Church was targeted for its work among the poor. The allegation that the Church converted people to Christianity is baseless, he added.
“The village has only three Catholic families and if the allegations were true there should have been so many Catholic by now,” he added.
Father Kidangan says the local Christians are living under fear after right wing group asked them to renounce their faith.