Quagmire in Kollam after church allegedly encroaches private land; status quo declared


The seven-cent land under dispute is situated beside Kundara-Chittumala road at Onambalam, near a cashew factory. The issue started after a group of devotees belonging to Kottapuram diocese, under which the church exists, reached the said land at 7am on February 12 to install the idol of Jesus Christ to worship.

The disputed land where the idol of Jesus Christ is placed.

Kochi: A Latin/Roman Catholic church in Kollam allegedly encroached on a private land for establishing a worshipping center by claiming that the land belongs to them.

Refuting the claim, the 'owners' of the land came out protesting against it and the scene turned chaotic. Sensing trouble, police and the officials from the revenue department rushed to the spot and the district collector directed to maintain status quo until the issue is resolved. A detailed inquiry has also been ordered by the district collector to verify the claims by Christ Raj Church authorities and the family members of Uruttukadavil.

The seven-cent land under dispute is situated beside Kundara-Chittumala road at Onambalam, near a cashew factory. The issue started after a group of devotees belonging to Kottapuram diocese, under which the church exists, reached the said land at 7am on February 12 to install the idol of Jesus Christ to worship. “Before they placed the idol, they cleaned the plot using a JCB. I was not there at that time, but people in the vicinity were informed about it. By the time I reached the spot they all left after placing the idol and worshipping,” said Sanju Paul (48), the owner of the land. He lives at Nanthancode, Thiruvananthapuram, now.

He also said that he belongs to the popular Oruttukadavil family in East Kallada and the disputed land is an ancestral property. “My father's brother, who is settled in England, my two brothers, sister and I are the owners of the land. We have been paying land tax for the property for over 70 years now. All of a sudden, the church priest and the people closer to him trespassed on our land by claiming that it is their land. We have all documents with us to prove that the land belongs to us,” said Sanju Paul.

He also said that in the year 1928 January 25, his great grandfather, named Paval Fernandez, bequeathed his property to his grandfathers. “The particular land was given to four prominent people in the locality to start a school (kudipallikkoodam), not church. Their failure in starting the school ended up leaving the land back to us in 1968 and we have all the records to prove it,” said Sanju Paul.

Going by the words of Sanju Paul, the said land belonged to survey number 529 in Perinad village in 1929. However, when resurvey was held the survey number became 54/16 in block number 7 in East Kallada village. “The survey number of the encroached land is different and their claims are false,” added Sanju Paul.

The priest of the church, fr Jose Lasar, however denied all the allegations and said that the land belongs to the diocese since 1928.

The trustee of Christ Raj church, Joyikutty, told Mathrubhumi.com that the church got this land from Paval Fernandez through a sale deed of value Rs50 in 1928. “We are in possession of all relevant documents. The land was given to the devotees of the church, which was a part of Kumbalam diocese in the year 1928. It was a few years ago Kottapuram diocese was formed and Christ Raj church is a part of it now. When an audit was held in the church, we got the document of the land in dispute and it was identified with the help of a concerned village officer,” said Joyikutty.

Kollam Tahsildar termed the move by the church unauthorised and that it was without permission the devotees tried to create a worshipping centre there. “Prior permission is a must before establishing a worshipping center. After all, there were no proper documents with the church authorities to prove their claim. In the meeting held in the presence of the district collector, status quo has been declared and a detailed probe has been ordered. We have to get the records of all the old survey numbers to verify the claims by both the parties,” said the Tahasildar.

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