Shillong, Sept. 1: The Opposition NCP has criticised an alleged move by the Meghalaya government to declare some churches in Garo hills unauthorised.
Addressing a news conference, Opposition leader Conrad Sangma said West Garo Hills deputy commissioner Sanjay Goyal had directed the district urban department officials besides revenue and enforcement officers to carry out spot inspection of six churches.
These are Town Church, Dakopgre, Baptist Church, Dakopgre, Sanford Colony Baptist Church, Dakopgre, Baptist Church on the medical department land, Baptist Church on the polytechnic land and Baptist Church on Public School land, all in Tura in West Garo Hills.
The extra assistant commissioner, revenue branch, S.K. Marak has been entrusted with the task of inspecting these churches to find out the year of construction, area occupied, minimum area required to occupy the existing structures, the area encroached and map of the lands.
According to the NCP, the move to assess the area of the churches and terming them illegal structures will hurt the sentiments of a religious community in the state.
Sangma said his party decided to come out publicly against the government’s move after the church leaders sought their assistance.
Goyal said the state government aimed to regularise unauthorised religious structure, be it a church, a mosque or a temple.
He said in 2006, the Supreme Court had directed state governments to file affidavits on the number of unauthorised religious structures.
The very intention to find out the number of such unauthorised structures was to regularise them and make them legal, Goyal said.
Goyal added he had filed an affidavit and sent a copy of it to the state government in March.
The church leaders in Tura were happy with the district administration’s move, he said. Goyal warned of action against those who are spreading rumours that the government aimed to dismantle religious places.