Nitin B | The News Minute | March 10, 2015 | 3:35 pm IST
The St Thomas SPG Church at Secunderabad is like any other structure from the Victorian era. Built in the Gothic Revival style, the layout of the church is a cruciform with a nave and two transepts studded with decorative patterns and lies near the railway station, just behind the city's famous "Alpha Hotel".
The church is also one of the oldest churches in the city, built in the year 1852 by a British missionary society. Representatives are now fighting a legal battle with the Hyderabad Metro Rail alleging that their land has been taken forcibly for metro rail construction.
"Everything was going good. We held talks with officials from the Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited (HMRL) and expressed willingness to cooperate with the authorities. We studied their proposal of constructing the Rail through our land but we submitted a counter proposal with a re route of a few meters, so our prayer hall would not be demolished." says executive secretary, Henry Jaganathan.
However, the church authorities alleged that on the night of January 28, the metro rail authorities along with the police barged into the church premises and occupied 2,007 square yards of land before the church could react to the move. "Pillars quickly sprung up over the past two months despite a stay order from the HC and they would've demolished our prayer hall if we didn't protest and stop them." Jaganathan adds.
Former MLA of Sanatnagar, M Shashidhar Reddy, addressed a press conference at the church on Wednesday and claimed that the HMRL authorities had constructed the pillars on the church property despite a stay order from the High Court.
"The church was willing to allow the metro rail to take over a small portion of its land where the Alpha hotel and a petrol bunk stand. It's strange that, instead of accepting the offer, the metro rail authorities chose only to take over the church land," Shashidhar Reddy was quoted as saying.
"Part of the hotel and the petrol bunk that you see are anyway going to be demolished for road widening during the later stages of the rail construction. We had made an offer to the HMRL to build along the border of the petrol bunk and the church but they still built on the church land, demolishing one of our smaller buildings." says Ambrose, another authority with the church.
(A board on a tree which reads - Metro do not destroy our prayer hall)
He also pointed out that the metro rail authorities had chosen to negotiate with the SPG church authorities when it came to constructing a pillar in the cemetery of the church but when it needed the front portion of the church for the same purpose, they negotiated with the Church of South India, (CSI) another claimant of the property.
(A sign at the entrance of the church that reads - Reroute the Metro Rail, do not pass through Church and Graveyard)
The high court has directed the HMRL authorities to file their counter on the petition filed by the church against forcible takeover of the church land.
The HMRL authorities when contacted, refused to comment on the issue as the matter was still pending in court.
The former MLA and church representatives also met chief secretary Rajiv Sharma, who is also the chairman of HMRL, and told him about the takeover of the church land and even offered to meet the expenditure to remove the metro rail pillar constructed on its premises as they needed the land for its meetings.
(All photos taken by The News Minute's Nitin B)