Imphal: The Christian community in Manipur under the aegis of All Manipur Christian Organisation (AMCO) on Thursday expressed disappointment over orders to evict churches despite repeated appeals to the state government to revoke the order.
Speaking to media persons during a press conference, jointly organised by the AMCO and All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM),
AMCO president S Prim Vaiphei said there are around 45 churches in and around Imphal. Of those, 14 are in the Lamphel area, another 14 in the Langol Housing Complex, six in Game Village, and eight in the Tribal Colony. One church is being constructed at Leimakhong area, according to the data provided by AMCO.
“Some Churches are constructed on private land, while other churches have existed for nearly half a century. Some are around 15 years old,” said Vaiphei.
Vaiphei added that Christian worship involves the public. “During worship time, we give moral teaching to our people and ask the people to be loyal to God and also to the government. We pray for the authority and society,” he said.
“Our Church is not confined to just one community but different communities come together and worship. And our main target is peace and harmony in the society,” said Vaiphei.
However, the leader of the Christian community alleged that the authorities have often targeted the Christian churches. “For this reason, we often approach the concerned authorities to legalise the churches and allow us to worship,” he said.
Vaiphei said state officials issued eviction orders on December 24, 2020, stating that 13 encroachers were encroaching on government land through churches and garages. This includes eight churches constructed at the Tribal Colony in Imphal East district and one at Leimakhong area.
A show cause notice was served by a sub-divisional officer, Porompat, Sanoujam Surchandra Singh, under Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Manipur Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1978.
“Despite our repeated appeals to reconsider the order, the eviction notice remains,” said Vaiphei.
General Secretary of the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM), SR Andria, said the Supreme Court passed an order in 2009, stating all religious structures constructed within the premises of public parks, streets, public places etc must be regulated. The order asked to formulate a policy regarding the removal, relocation, regularisation of unauthorised constructions.
Accordingly in 2010, the state government constituted a committee comprising of the then chief secretary as chairman and various secretaries of the state departments as members under the Manipur policy for review of unauthorised construction of religious nature on public places, the tribal student leader said.
The body also alleged that in 2011, the state government listed 188 standing religious places in the state to be regularised, excluding churches.
“Why only Christian churches or structures are systematically victimised,” he questioned.
“They cannot simply do the regularisation on the whims and interest of a few people, which might affect the secular fabric of the state. The process must include all religious communities in the state,” said Andria.
Despite their fervent appeals to the state, if the cases are not given equal treatment, the body warned the government that they might be compelled to take up further agitation.