The controversy surrounding P.S.P. Raju, Bishop of Calcutta under the Church of North India (CNI), took a fresh turn on Saturday as a majority of the Presbyterians stayed away from the special diocesan council meeting convened to discuss the commercial development of Bishop House at 51, Chowringhee Road.
Bishop Raju is currently under pressure from a section of the diocese members for his alleged financial irregularities and his controversial plans to hand over a portion of the Bishop House — which has been declared a heritage building — to realtors for development.
“The special diocesan council meeting had to be cancelled as most of the 29 presbyterians did not attend. The meeting was adjourned due to lack of quorum. The executive committee will fix another date for holding the meeting sometime next month,” Bishop Raju said.
The absence of the priests, however, sparked off protests from the lay members, who were present in adequate numbers, at St John’s Church where Saturday’s meeting was convened.
The decision to hold the meeting had been taken by the executive committee of the Calcutta diocese on February 19 when a large number of members of the 23 CNI-controlled churches in the city laid siege on Bishop House, demanding the resignation of Bishop Raju for his alleged attempts to set up a commercial complex at Bishop House.
Soon after the meeting was declared cancelled on Saturday, there were heated exchanges between the pro and anti-Bishop members. Those campaigning against the Bishop claimed that the priests had acted at the behest of the Bishop.
“The meeting was deliberately sabotaged. The members had come today with many documents and if the meeting had been held, many truths concerning the financial misdeeds of the Bishop would have been exposed,” Subir Sarkar, a member of the diocesan council, said.
Pointing out that the notice for Saturday’s meeting had been sent to all members two weeks ago, Chhaya Biswas, another member attending the meeting, said: “It is clear that the presbyterians did not attend the meeting because they were asked not to do so.” She pointed out that if the presbyterians had stayed away of their own free will, then they had disobeyed the order of the executive committee which had convened the meeting. “The Bishop should take action against them,” she said.
The members supporting the Bishop insisted that the February 19 agitation had tarnished the prestige of the CNI and the community, and action should be taken against those involved in the incident.
The “one-point” agenda of Saturday’s meeting was Bishop House. Bishop Raju refused to comment on the issue as it was sub-judice.