The chapel of Our Lady Of Remedies in Daman in western India faces the threat of demolition. (Photo: pontofinal-macau.com)
A four-century-old chapel in western India dating back to the Portuguese colonial era faces a threat of demolition as the administration aims to acquire land to turn it into a football stadium, local Catholics say.
Catholic leaders say the chapel of Our Lady Of Remedies in Daman faces threat due to a controversial beautification drive planned by Praful Patel, the administrator and a leader of the pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).
Daman and Diu is a federally ruled territory that comes directly under the administrative control of the BJP-led government in New Delhi.
Territory's administrator Patel neither confirmed nor denied the move to demolish the chapel to expand the football field.
“No, I have no idea, you ask the local authorities,” he told UCA News.
But local Catholics said the administration was firm about the demolition plan.
"They want to acquire the chapel's land....once they acquire the land, they can do whatever they want. And they want to expand the football field which means they want to flatten the chapel. We fully understand their intention. We are not fools," Rui Pereira, a local Catholic leader said.
Pereira along with a group of Catholic leaders recently met Daman Municipal Council president Sonal Patel to express their concerns.
The chapel was built in 1607 when Daman was a Portuguese colony, published records show.
Portuguese colonialism ended in Daman and Diu in 1961 but the chapel continues to be a place of worship for local Catholics.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has not declared it a heritage structure, "despite its architectural antiquity and unique wood carving, which should be preserved," said Pereira.
The fact that ASI has not categorized it as a heritage structure might embolden authorities to raze it to the ground, Pereira said.
“But this should not be done. We are with the Christian community," said council president Sonal Patel.
Pramod Rana, an independent member of the council, also echoes the president’s sentiments, voicing support for the catholic community.
“We adopted a resolution stating that local Catholics should be taken into confidence before carrying out any activity, or any decision that might impact them. We cannot allow the chapel to be bulldozed just like that,” he said.
Father Brian Rodrigues, who provides religious services at the chapel said they “are preparing to take the case to the High Court in Bombay,” said a report in pontofinal-macau.com, a Portuguese publication based in Macao.