New Delhi: A portion of the Syro-Malabar church in Chattarpur was on Monday demolished by the civic authorities in the national capital, who said the structure was built on "encroached Gram Sabha land."
In an official statement, the South Delhi District Magistrate Ankita Chakravarti said the demolition drive at the land on which the church stood was taken up in pursuance of the Delhi High Court order of 2015.
"A demolition drive was conducted today on pillar number 36 and 120 of Chattarpur. The land is an original gram sabha land for which the boundary work was done by Irrigation and Flood Control Department (I&FC). However, it was encroached by some people by the installment of religious structures. Over time, the encroached area started increasing in the garb of the expansion of the religious structure. Therefore, the Block Development Office tried to undertake the demolition of the unauthorized structures," the statement said.
Church authorities approached the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC), according to the district magistrate. Later, it had been referred to the religious committee.
"Thereafter, a letter was received from the Home Police-II Department dated March 3, where they cited the High Court order of 2015 in WPC no 5234/2011 wherein it was directed to demolish the entire construction above the ground floor as well as portions of the ground where idols are not installed/placed without waiting for the decision of the religious committee," the DM said.
The magistrate said that "notices were duly served to the encroachers and finally, the demolition was successfully carried out today."
The DM further said that the land, where demolition was carried out, now belongs to the Forest Department as per the Special Task Force (STF) report submitted in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the "Sonya Ghosh matter and will be handed over to them".
Father Jose, Parish priest of the Little Flower Church in Andheria Modh of Chhattarpur's Dr. Ambedkar Colony, said: "This has been our church for the past 14 years. We have a congregation of 460 families here. Almost 500 students are studying here. They promised me they will not demolish the church, and they wanted to demolish only the shed. I did not get any notice or prior information regarding the demolition."
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