The Nagalpalika (city council) of Jagdalpur city in the state of Chhattisgarh, India demolished a Church allegedly under the sway of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) [World Council of Hindus] on March 13, 2013.
The move has been widely criticized by state Christian leaders and has caused turmoil in the small Christian community.
According to reports the Church was built on a land belonging to the pastor Budhram Baghel after obtaining due permissions in 2006.
The Church building in 2006 was a temporary shed which was constructed after obtaining permission of the village head. The village council of village Gadia had even donated 10000 rupees towards the construction of the temporary Church building then. Later this temporary structure was made permanent after obtaining necessary clearances in January 2012.
The Church known as the Divya Jyoti Church, serves the spiritual needs of 100 plus tribal Christians who are now without a worship place.
According to reports Yogeshwar Kashyap, Lakhmuram and Shyamlal of Gadia village, allegedly VHP activists, filed a complaint with the Tesildar (Revenue administrative officer) of the area alleging that the construction of the Divya Jyoti church building took place in the government land.
They in their report demanded the demolition of the Church building. Local media was mobilized by the VHP people and local vernacular media covered the news on March 12, 2013.
On March 13, 2013 the local VHP Vice President Kailash Rathi and office bearer Yogendra Kaushik came with a bulldozer with a huge mob of Hindu fundamentalists, and started demolishing the Church Building.
While the demolition was being carried out the Tehsildar (Revenue officer), Local Police Station In charge Mr. Shukla, Patwari (Officer incharge of the documentation of the land), Sarpanch (Village Head) Mr. Lakshman, and a posse of police personnel were watching the entire proceeding silently.
According to reports from local Christian leaders, the demolition started at about 01 PM on 13th March 2013. The Christian leaders alleged that the VHP office bearers were commanding all the administrative officials and Police, as if they were in charge of the whole district, the officials were meekly obeying them and taking orders.
The Christian leaders have said that the mob demolishing the Church constituted of Bhonjaram, Jatia, Dursai, Hungo, Budhram, Sakru, Gaita, Anant, Pilu, Ranu, Gutli, Boga, Samnath, Kuya, Yogesh, and Lakhu among others.
It is important to note that while the Construction of the church building was termed illegal by the office bearers of VHP, no measurement of land was ever carried out by the Revenue officials present. No notice of any kind was ever served to any of the aggrieved.
It was observed that the word of the VHP activists was the law which was meekly followed by all the administrative officials. A tractor- loader demolished walls and roof of the church building.
When local tribal protested and tried to stop the demolition they were beaten, verbally abused and pushed around. These included many women and children. The women were subjected to lewd gestures by the members of the VHP.
When Christian tribals approached the police station to lodge an FIR they were threatened with dire consequences and were asked to leave the police station. They were warned that they could be charged as Naxals if they do not leave and could lose their lives.
During the demolition objects of faith were desecrated. Offerings were looted and taken away by the fundamentalist.
Part of Pastor Budhram Baghel’s house which was standing there for the last 70 years on his own land, was also destroyed, his ration and other belongings were thrown out of his house.
While the local Christians have managed to register a complaint in the Lohandiguda police station, no case has been registered.