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Hindu opposition stalls India's tallest Christ statue

Hindu groups say donated hilltop land is their god's abode and Christians cannot use it

ucanews reporter, Karnataka

ucanews reporter, Karnataka

Updated: January 08, 2020 04:47 AM GMT
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Hindu opposition stalls India's tallest Christ statue

The Christ the King statue in western Poland is the tallest statue of Jesus in the world. (Photo: Pixabay)

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Opposition from Hindu groups has forced the Archdiocese of Bangalore to halt a project to erect what is billed as India’s tallest statue of Jesus Christ on a hilltop in Karnataka state.

The southern state's government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has asked for work to be suspended until a government probe establishes the ownership of the land, church officials told ucanews on Jan. 7.

The problem began after Hindu groups challenged the archdiocese’s ownership of the 10-acre land plot on the Kapalabetta hilltop in Ramanagara district, where work began last week on the gigantic 30-meter statue.

Former state minister and Congress party leader D.K. Shivakumar donated the land to a Catholic trust working under the archdiocese last month, said Father Cyril Victor Joseph, chairman of the archdiocesan media commission.

Shivakumar, a Hindu, also inaugurated on Dec. 25 the work to erect what he called India’s tallest Jesus statue on the land he donated.

The world’s tallest Christ statue, the Christ the King statue completed in 2010, stands 33 meters high in western Poland.

Hindu groups began to oppose the Karnataka project, saying the hilltop was the abode of their deity Kapali Betta and Christians could not install the statue there.

Girish Bharadwaj, a social activist, also petitioned district authorities to probe how the politician owned the land. The petition said land records available online show it as grazing land belonging to the state.

Father Joseph said the state government agreed to intervene after Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore met Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Jan. 5 seeking his help.

The government has asked officials to study the issue and submit a report to clear up the ownership confusion. “Until then, we are asked to wait,” the priest said.

Father Joseph said it was an unnecessary controversy because the hilltop was in the possession of the Church for decades.

“We used the same land for decades and conducted the Way of the Cross during Good Fridays,” said Father Joseph. “A cross was there, and we wanted to replace it with a statue of Jesus after the land was donated to us.”

Father Joseph said Christians have been living in the area since 1906 when French missionaries of the Paris Foreign Missions Society began work.

Harobele village in the foothills of Kapalabetta is now considered a Christian stronghold, the priest said.

Misleading media coverage had led to the current dispute, he added.

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