Mangaluru: There are many cases of ‘Ghar Wapsi’ initiated by some Hindutva outfits, but here is a case of a section of converts threatening to initiate ‘Ghar Wapsi’ voluntarily because they are now feeling cheated.
This is the tale of the settlers of Jeppu Compound. 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.
The residents of Jeppu Compound who are living under fear of eviction, met and discussed ways to avert the threat of eviction looming large over them on Sunday, December 17. During the meet which was attended by hundreds of affected families, 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,” said a resident.
The meet 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.
This is not the first time that the very existence of the converts fell at the mercy of the Church, says a resident adding that it has been the same, ever since the land was given to them.
It was in 1968 that the Jesuits transferred the responsibilities of these properties to the Diocese of Mangalore. But, the sadest 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.
Speaking to newskarnataka.com, community leader Eric Ozario, whose parents hailed from the very same area, says that he has been fighting for the rights over the Jeppu Compound land issue for the last several decades.
He says that though the residents have been living here, getting rights over the land has become only a distant dream and it is all the more disheartening because it is not the state or the landlords who are unleashing havoc, it is their very own church which is tormenting them.
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, recalled Ozario adding that it is such a desperate situation that once the husband dies, the wife has no rights.
However, the residents of the Compound have kept forth their demands, which include an immediate withdrawal of the eviction notice served on the two. They have said that the Diocese of Mangalore must stop exercising its illegal authority over Jeppu Compound, and all the residents, natives and new settlers be given their legal rights over their house property.
The residents have said that the Church should overcome its greed for land and property and instead of behaving like a ruthless land lord, it must uphold the true spirit of Christianity.
The residents have decided go as a delegation and pressurise the DC to take up the issue and ensure that no land deal takes place concerning the said land. They have also decided to tell the elected representatives clearly that thye have to sort out the matter before the upcoming elections.
One will have to wait and watch to see if the residents will be given a Christmas gift in the form of the right to live on the land that where they have been living or if they will have to plan their next course of action.