A day after the Calcutta Diocese witnessed an unprecedented demonstration by some members of Church of North India (CNI) against Bishop P.S.P. Raju, threats of disciplinary action were met with counter-threats to take the dispute to Delhi.
Bishop Raju, facing allegations of “financial irregularities”, warned the agitators that they were crossing their limit. Stern action might be taken — with cancellation of membership not ruled out — if they continued to tarnish the image of the church by levelling “baseless” allegations against him.
“I am still looking at things from a pastor’s point of view,” he said on Friday morning. “But stern action may have to be taken if some people go on disturbing the church,” he added, alleging that Thursday’s agitation was “pre-planned and masterminded by a group of disgruntled people in the community, whose wishes were not fulfilled”.
The movement would go on until their principal demand — the Bishop’s resignation — was met, announced the agitators.
“There is no going back,” said Sailesh Mukhopadhay, secretary of the Calcutta Diocese. “We want our church to be free of corruption.”
Hundreds of Christian men and women — all of them members of the 29 churches within CNI jurisdiction in the city — demonstrated in front of Bishop House at 51, Chowringhee Road, on Thursday, marking a first in the city’s Christian calendar.
The protestors have threatened to take their grievances to Delhi. They will meet senior CNI officials in the Capital and give them “documentary evidence” of the charges they have levelled against Bishop Raju, they said.
The Bishop denied every allegation against his family, associates and himself. “All the allegations are false and without the support of any cogent reason and document,” he maintained.
One of the main allegations brought against the Bishop is his “attempt to hand over a large portion of Bishop House (designated a heritage structure) to a hurriedly-chosen realtor”.
The deal was allegedly struck in September 2003 without seeking the approval of the executive committee of the CNI and the Indian Church Trust (ICT), the apex body dealing with property-related matters.
The Bishop, however, insisted on Friday that the executive committee had been kept posted.
Mukhopadhay said it was “way back” in 1999 that developing a portion of Bishop House was discussed at a meeting of the executive committee. “The matter was never discussed after that,” he added.
Another allegation — that the Bishop had established firm control over the admission procedure of prominent Anglo-Indian schools within CNI jurisdiction by appointing “people” of his choice in the admission committees — was also countered by him.
“Some of them (the agitators) wanted to join the board of governors of big schools and turned against me as I did not oblige them,” he said.