Mangaluru: Upalokayukta Subhash B Adi on Sunday heard the complaint filed by Jeppu residents fighting for land rights from Bishop and has directed the Tahshildar and Assistant commissioner of Mangaluru sub-division to submit a preliminary report in this regard within 20 days.
During a public hearing and reddressal programme jointly organised by the Karnataka Lokayukta, Mangaluru and Dakshina Kannada district administration at Zilla Panchayath office here in Urwastore, on January 28, Justice Adi said that since the complaint is filed against Bishop Aloyious Paul Dsouza, who is a private party, the office of the Lokayukta cannot take any action. However, considering the number of people involved in this case and having heard their petition, it appears that they have been residing in the property since several decades. Hence a report in this regard will be sought and necessary action will be taken to tackle the case.
He further said, “it is only for considering as to whether the land acquired by the complainants are government lands or whether the complainants have any right for the same or whether the district adminisation has any alternative provision to protect interest of the complainants without invading into the private rights of the Bishop. With this background Assistant commissioner and Tahshildar have been asked to verify the clause related to the case and submit a preliminary report in 20 days.”
It may be recalled that on Dec 18, 2017, newskarnataka.com had reported the issue of the Jeppu Compound residents who threatened to go back to their mother religion if the rights of their lands were not transferred to them by the Bishop.
Hundreds of years ago, Hindus – specifically the economically and religiously backward – had embraced Christianity under the foreign Jesuits. They were given a ‘home’ at Jeppu Compound in lieu of their religious conversion. The sprawling 40 acre land was given to them only because of their conversion. A place was soon started to provide employment to the new converts and it came be known as the ‘Seminary Workshop’ or ‘Asylum workshop’. However, in recent times, the Diocese of Mangaluru issued an eviction notice to two settlers here, which has raged the converts.
They had met in December to discussed ways to avert the threat of eviction looming large over them and one of the amicable decisions that came up was that they would go back to their mother religion, if they were forced to leave the land that they have been living on. “We were given this land only because we embraced Christianity. Now if we are to leave this land, we should logically leave the religion as well,” the residents had said. They had also decided that none of the residents of Jeppu Compound would take part in any of the Church events if their rights were not handed over to them.
It was in 1968 that the Jesuits transferred the responsibilities of these properties to the Diocese of Mangalore. But, the saddest part of the story is that the complete right of the land remained with the church. Now, since the Diocese has some other plans, a legal notice has been served to Valerian Texeira and Victor Pais- who are legal heirs of such settlers.
The RTI and crucial information available with them makes it clear that the residents have no rights over the land here. In recent development, the church asked the residents to sign something called a Perpetual Agreement. The purpose here was to regularise their side of authority. The agreement does not speak of any rights for the occupants. When two people – Valerian Texeria and Victor Pais – refused to sign the agreement, they issued legal notice to them.