Indian Christians threaten to protest if Batala admin fails to remove encroachments on burial grounds

Christians in Batala, in the Gurdaspur district in India, have threatened to protest against the local administration if it fails to remove the encroachment of "politically influential" individuals on the pathways that go to their burial grounds.

(REUTERS / Munish Sharma)Local residents run near the site of a gunfight at a police station at Dinanagar town in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, July 27, 2015.

According to senior Christian leader Kanwal Bakshi, believers in many villages in Gurdaspur have been forced to travel long distances to bury their dead because certain influential persons have encroached on their cremation grounds. He also said authorities have not taken action despite numerous complaints filed by the affected residents, The Hindustan Times details.

"Though I along with the residents of affected villages had lodged many complaints with the district administration and police of Gurdaspur and Batala, no action was initiated," said Bakshi. "As most of the persons who have encroached these lands are politically connected, all our complaints are ignored. A lot of resentment prevails within the community but officials, including the DC and SSP, are doing nothing."

In a separate situation last month, Catholics in Kandivali protested against the acquisition of their church land for the government's road widening project. The organizers of the protest said they will not give even "an inch" of the Our Lady of Remedy Church's land in Poisar even though the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had already served the notice for the acquisition, the Daily News & Analysis reports.

Dolphy D'Souza, one of the organizers of the protest, said open land acquisition is not an issue that is limited to Kandivali. He said the same thing could also happen to other churches' open spaces.

In addition, D'Souza said the road that the corporation wants to widen is wide enough already and the traffic there is not as heavy as the one at SV Road, which he said is in dire need of widening. He asks Deputy Municipal Commissioner Ashok Khaire why the Goandevi Road is being prioritized for the widening initiative.

Khaire, on the other hand, explained that they are also running other road widening projects in the area. He also cited a High Court order released a few months ago saying they are looking to acquire land situated behind the burial ground in question.

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