IDUKKI: After the Revenue Department officials issued a notice to the St Mary’s church authorities at Kanayankavayal in Idukki on Friday to remove the crosses erected on revenue land in Panchalimedu near Kuttikkanam, the church authorities on Tuesday removed the wooden crosses put up during last Good Friday.
However, the church did not remove the 14 concrete crosses erected on the land 65 years ago. Although the crosses have been there at Panchalimedu since 1954 and a temple dedicated to Bhuvaneshwari near it on the same revenue land for the past several years, the controversy erupted recently when the church authorities installed two new wooden crosses during the Way of the Cross procession during last Good Friday.
Meanwhile, a right-wing Hindu group also installed a trident (Trishul) near the cross, protesting against the alleged attempt by the Church to encroach upon revenue land, which forced the District Collector to serve a notice to the church authorities to remove the crosses. Idukki RDO M P Vinodh told Express the Collector has directed the officials not to take immediate action.
“Both the cross and the temple are now staying on government land, which is estimated to over 50 acres. If the land owned by the government should be reclaimed, both the structures have to be removed. Since the issues are related to believers of two religious communities, action will be taken only after conducting a joint meeting with the temple and the church authorities,” he said.
Peermade Tahsildar Josekutty K M told Express that erecting new wooden crosses was the only issue persisting. However, the church authorities have now removed the crosses. The trident installed by Hindu outfits has also been removed. “Removing the crosses installed by the church years ago and the temple will be done only after discussing it with the religious authorities. However, as of now, the decision has been put on hold,” he said.
St Mary’s church vicar Fr James said the church had installed the crosses in 1954, when the whole land at Panchalimedu was held by two families in the high ranges- Kallivayalil and Karimbanal.
“However, when the government passed the Land Reforms Act in 1963, the land was taken over by the Revenue Department. The crosses still remain there and the parishioners have been offering prayers at the crosses on all Good Fridays for the past 65 years,” he said.
Fr James said so far there have been no issues from the part of the authorities in offering prayers there and installing crosses. “We don’t know how the issue has flared up suddenly,” he said. However, the local temple committee’s version is that the controversy was an attempt to destroy communal harmony in the place.