Christian forum sends tough message to govt, serves week’s ultimatum to solve Tawang church issue

Staff Reporter

ITANAGAR, Oct 9: The Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) on Friday served an ultimatum to the state government to resolve the Tawang Christian Revival church issue at the earliest, failing which, it said, it would be compelled to launch a democratic stir.

The Tawang police had arrested Tawang Revival church pastor Joseph Singhi, sparking protest from the Christian community of the state.

Singhi was reportedly arrested on the basis of an FIR lodged by the district land revenue & survey officer, allegedly for illegally constructing the church.

The ACF submitted a memorandum to the chief minister’s office on Friday. In the representation to the CM, the ACF claimed that the Christian Revival church in Tawang was established in 1999 and a request for land allotment for the church had been made to the chief minister’s office in 2003. The ACF also claimed that the application for land allotment was repeatedly sent by the district administration to the land management secretary but the file was never returned.

The ACF further stated that the Baptist church in Tawang was established at an identified plot after thorough discussion with the defence personnel, with the help of the then Tawang deputy commissioner. The church was constructed in June 2004.

“The churches were constructed and functioning for decades without any complaints from any person and association and the government authority while land allotment files are pending,” stated the ACF.

It also claimed that, over the years, the condition of the church was getting dilapidated, so it was felt that an RCC church was required in the area.

“India is a secular country and the right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the constitution to enable its citizens to freely profess and practice their religious beliefs. Quoting the Supreme Court’s 2009 ban on unauthorized construction of religious structures on public streets, roads and public utility spaces is simply unjustified here,” the ACF stated.

Appealing to the government to consider its representation, ACF president Toko Teki stated that the Christian believers have utmost respect for the people of Tawang and their custom, culture, tradition and religious beliefs, and have no intention to disturb their way of life.

The Supreme Court’s direction of 29 September, 2009, states that no unauthorized construction shall be permitted in the name of temple, church, mosque, gurudwara, etc, on public streets, public parks, and other public places. For religious structures constructed prior to 2009, the structure should be within a residential area and the majority of the residents should profess that religion.

The Tawang DA reportedly invoked Section 4 (1) of the Arunachal Pradesh Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupant) Act, 2003.

Reportedly, there is a blanket ban on land allotment in Tawang for a decade. More than 200 land allotments issued to private and public parties had to be cancelled in 2007-2008 after the district’s students’ union raised the issue.