GUWAHATI: Christians in Arunachal Pradesh are livid with the state’s BJP government for “blocking” the construction of a church near the India-China border town of Tawang, where Buddhists are the largest religious community.
The Arunachal Christian Forum petitioned Chief Minister Pema Khandu requesting him to resolve the controversy surrounding the Tawang Christian Revival Church. It warned of a protest in the event of the government’s failure to address the issue early.
The forum claimed that the church in question was established in 1999 and several applications, seeking land allotment for the same, were submitted to the government through the local administration since 2003. However, the authorities concerned never responded.
It was a makeshift church and the problem cropped up since 2015 when work started for the construction of a permanent structure. The church pastor Joseph Singhi was arrested recently by the police in connection with the alleged illegal construction. He was released the same day.
Tai Ete, who is the president of Arunachal Pradesh Christian Revival Church Council, said none had objected when the church was set up in 1999.
“We started facing a resistance since 2015 when we started building an RCC structure. The authorities said it was government land and we didn’t have the land allotment order,” Rev Ete said.
He said back in 2003, the then Chief Minister Gegong Apang besides the then Minister of the department concerned and District Magistrate had no objection and they stated that the matter could be considered.
The government pointed out the Supreme Court’s ban on unauthorized construction of religious structures on public streets, roads, and public utility spaces. But Ete claimed the church stood at an “unused” and “rejected” site. It is neither a public place nor is the church stands by the roadside, he said.
“They are intentionally harassing us. No law says there cannot be a church in Tawang. All communities have the right to propagate their own religion. Isn’t India a secular nation?” Ete asked.
He said the church catered to adherents who were posted in various government departments or were doing business in the town.
“We have told the government that we should not be persecuted or disturbed. There is a case registered against pastor Singhi. We want this to be withdrawn. We want an early and amicable solution to the issue,” he added.