St. Thomas japaveedu (place for japa) is situated on the Harichandra Road at Injambakkam, Chennai. People belonging to the area are objecting to this japaveedu stating that this has been constructed illegally on the land belonging to Hindu fisherfolk. A case related to this is going on for many years in Tambaram Civil Court.
Under such circumstances, on 27.4.14, under the pretext of expanding the japaveedu, makeshift structures were constructed in an adjoining land by the Church. To execute this hundreds of Christian folk from various places were ferried in many vans and made to assemble at the land. Learning about this, people belonging to Hindu fisherfolk joined together to protest against the illegal encroachment of the Church. Learning that men and women belonging to the Hindu fishermen community are indulging in the agitation, police rushed to the area to establish peace in the area. When the situation turned un controllable, they resorted to lathi charge and chased away the fishermen. In this lathi charge, many women were injured. Speaking about this, people belonging to the area stated that, "The court had permitted them to celebrate Easter in the particular place by constructing temporary structure. By constructing a new thatched structure, they are encroaching upon our land".
Learning about the intensity of the imbroglio, the Tehsildar of Sozhinganallur Shri. Ravichandran and the higher officials of the police force invited both the parties for truce talks. However, the Church administration refused to come to the truce meeting. Father Joseph Martin declared that they need not take anyone's permission to replace the old thatched structure in the land belonging to the Church with a new one. Moreover he had also stated that he did not wish to hold talks with the government officials. We cannot bow before the atrocious and audacious behavior of the Church - when the Hindu fisher fold resolved thus, police had no other go but to file cases against 4 persons belonging to the parish. Besides in order to prevent any further problem from erupting, police force has been brought in good numbers.
To learn more about this problem representatives belonging to Vedic Science Research Centre along with an office bearer of Hindu Munnani, Shri. Sathya Narayanan went to Injambakkam and met the people of the locality in person. A representative of Injambakkam Fishermen Community, Shri. Mathiyazhagan explained vividly about the history of the so called Church land.
Way back in 1965, a parish priest Shri. Arulappa came to Injambakkam and lent financial and material aid to the fishermen. Alongwith with the conduct of these deeds and also to pray for our welfare, he sought a small land and we too gave it to him. Majority of fisherfolk here are Hindus. Even in his prayers, only people belonging to our community would participate. To those who participated in his prayer meetings he would give old blanket, baniyan and milk powder for free. After a few months, Shri. Arulappa was transferred to Santhome Church. The Church administration which took over after the exit of Shri. Arulappa promised that they would construct schools in the place for our sake. And we gullibly acceded to their request without understanding their land grab intentions and religious conversion aims, as we thought our children would get a good education.
In the land given to them, the school functioned only for a period of 7 years from 1980 to 1987. I too was employed in this school as a Physical Education Teacher. Suddenly, citing lack of adequate space, they shifted to the school to Vettuvaankeni. After shifting the school, they attempted to construct a Church in the place. We protested this act of the parish. However, we gave in to the pestering of the priest, who sought a small place at least to conduct prayers for the fisherfolk, as even then we did not realize the evil intentions of him. As time rolled by, all our protests notwithstanding, the japaveedu which functioned quietly in a small thatched structure, was converted to a solid concrete structure, stated Shri. Mathiyazhagan.
"Religious conversions have begun to take place only after the advent of this St. Thomas Church. They attempted to entice us by promising to get aid from America, catamaran, fishing net etc. And in this process they have succeeded in converting many people to Christianity. Through those who converted themselves to Christianity, they are attempting to change our traditions and mores. Not just that, they are attempting to add new features which are alien to our community practices" he added.
In spite of us trying to prevent Christian priests from indulging in conversion activities, some gullible fishermen fall prey to the enticements of them and get converted. At times, problems arise due to this, he stated. In this context, he remembered an incident which happened before a few years. "We celebrate offering of porridge during the Thamizh month of Aadi in a grand way. During such times, Christians came playing their bands loudly in a procession. This band procession which was organized by the Christians deliberately to spark an agitation was made to stop because of strong protests by Hindu fishermen".
Having lost their peace because of the assault carried on by the Christians with the one point agenda of conversion, the Hindu fishermen of this place are more determined than ever to get the japaveedu removed.
Christians are continuously spending huge sums of money for the purpose of religious conversions. This money came in the form of aid to the fishermen who had been affected by the Tsunami. One notable of the community stated that having swallowed this money, these people construct sky high Churches and seek further foreign financial assistance.
These Church authorities get government permission to celebrate their Christian festivals. However, they construct huge pandals with the intention of encroaching upon our lands. We are resolved in not to let this happen any further and we are determined to somehow remove this illegal construction on our land - said Shri. Mathiyazhagan. And in order to put an end to any further religious conversion in the area, he expressed the need to conduct religious classes for the Hindu fisher folk of the place.
The traditional right to the lands of the fisherfolk should be restored to them from the vice like grip of the Church. Concerned officials and government administration should help the fishermen in their restoring their legitimate right. We too shall participate wholeheartedly in the fight for justice carried out by our fishermen brethren.