Two persons were arrested today in connection with the erection and removal of a five feet tall wooden Cross in government land at Pappathichola here, police said. It was put up at the same spot from where a 30 feet tall metal Cross was removed on Thursday as part of anti-eviction drive by revenue officials. Police took into custody two persons who were seen in the area in suspicious circumstances this morning and after questioning them, recorded their arrest. A van registered in the name of Evangelist Tom Scaria, against whom a case had been registered for putting up the metal Cross, was also found near the disputed land. They do not have land or house in the area and are workers of the evangelist, police said.
A case has been registered against them under various sections of IPC, including 447 (criminal trespass) and 353A (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty). Meanwhile, four office-bearers of Spirit in Jesus claimed that they had not encroached the government land at Munnar and the property where the cross had erected was owned by a believer named Maria Soosa and she had applied for title deed for the area 1994 and 2004. CPI, a key partner of the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF today said a determined will was needed to remove all encroachments from Munnar, an ecologically sensitive area.
Party state secretary Kanam Rajendran said there was no need for earth movers to remove encroachments in Munnar, but a “powerful determination” would suffice. The remark comes a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan made it clear that earth movers should not be used in the region. In Munnar, the Cross which was removed did not symbolise Christ’s sacrifice, but it was a Cross symbolising encroachment, Rajendran said. The wooden Cross allegedly put up by encroachers pointed to the fact that they had challenged the government, he said.
Opposition leader in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala said Congress was against justifying encroachments using religious symbols. But an earth mover should not have been used for removing the Cross, he said. He also questioned the government’s sincerity in removing encroachers from its lands. The Chief Minister and the government have the responsibility to protect government land from encroachers, he told reporters in Kannur.