A land dispute in the Peeragarhi Relief Camp is taking communal overtones.
The priest in charge of the Christian Prayer Hall, a brick-and-tin structure that caters to Christian families in and around the camp, claims that the structure was vandalised on September 18.
Ezik Masih Malik, the priest, alleges that the mob had not only local residents but also members of groups like the VHP and Bajrang Dal. “They have been threatening Christian families since and asking us to leave the area,” claims Malik.
Local residents, however, say they have nothing against the prayer hall, but are opposed to its encroaching upon the common passage. They admit that a protest took place but deny any violent incident occurred.
“We didn’t interfere while they were repairing the hall, but they then started extending it and also tried to cover a drain that flows along the structure. We objected to this as this would obstruct our right of way,” says Sunita Kumari, an area resident. Kumari is one of the people named in Malik’s complaint to the police.
The residents are also worried that the hall would take over a small patch of land they use to tie their cattle.
The local police, while ruling out any religious angle, maintain that the caretaker and members of the church were trying to extend the prayer hall beyond the boundary wall.
“We have not received a single complaint of abuse from the members of the prayer hall in the last 16 years. There was an agitation on September 18, but as we were present on the spot, everything was under control. There was no demolition,” says Deputy Commissioner of Police (West) Sharad Agarwal.