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BENGALURU - Title deed sought from historic churches, temples, mosques

BBMP has been directed by the High Court to provide a list of illegal religious places

The Someshwara temple in Halasuru belonging to the Chola period, and the Dharmaraya Swamy temple in Tigularapete from the Nadaprabhu Kempe Gowda period are among the oldest temples of Bengaluru. While these temples existed centuries before Bengaluru emerged as a city, temple authorities will now be asked to provide ‘proof of title’ of the land on which they stand today.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), which has been directed by the Karnataka High Court to provide a list of religious places on unauthorised land, is set to issue a notice seeking the title deed among other land-related documents.

Historians put the construction of the Someshwara temple to around the 10th century, and was later expanded by the Vijayanagar rulers and Kempe Gowda. The Dharmaraya Swamy temple is said to be from the late 16th century.

The BBMP, meanwhile, has issued notices to several heritage churches in east Bengaluru, including St. Mary’s Basillica in Shivajinagar that dates back to 1803, and St. Patrick’s Church built in 1844 for Irish soldiers.

Though most of them have received notices to furnish the title deed and other land-related documents, some places have also been issued notice to bring down the structure within three days of receiving the notice since they are unauthorised, causing anxiety.

Civic Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad confirmed that all religious structures in the city, both on public and private land, however old they are, were being served notices to furnish documents available with them to prove titles of the land on which the religious structures stand today. “All temples, gurudwaras, churches, mosques and other religious structures, irrespective of their historical and vintage value, are being served similar notices,” he said.

This follows a recent directive of the High Court, which has been hearing a suo motu PIL on implementation of the 2009 apex court order on illegal religious structures on public land.

When his attention was drawn to the non-existence of “title document” prior to land laws being framed in the country, he said that in such cases the earliest record of tenancy and cultivation (RTC) where the existence of such religious structures have been entered would be sufficient. “They can also submit a report on the historicity of such religious structures, if there are no recorded historical documents,” he said.

The spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bangalore J.A. Kanthraj said that officials issuing notices had been rude during their meetings with priests. “The church is not against the process. However, the manner in which it is being done is not right. Also, several churches have been issued notices asking the authorities to demolish structures within three days, without giving an opportunity to be heard,” he said.

Meanwhile, MLC and former mayor P.R. Ramesh, closely associated with Sri Dharmaraya Swamy temple, said, “The Centre has enacted The Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, that provides for maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947. Ideally, this should be the cut-off date. Seeking documents for title deeds of a centuries old temple is absurd,” he said.

Source - THE HINDU (FEBRUARY 21, 2021)

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