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14 September 2011

Goa Church backs Muslims over cemetery

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Plan to locate burial ground next to garbage dump is 'insulting and discriminatory'

By Bosco de Sousa Eremita

Panaji: The Church in Goa is backing angry Muslims who are opposing a state government plan to locate a burial ground next to a garbage dump.

The plan is “blatantly insulting and discriminatory to the [Muslim] community,” the Diocesan Council for Social Justice and Peace said in a statement yesterday.

The statement, signed by council secretary Father Maverick Fernandes, urged the government to choose a location that is acceptable to everyone.

Muslims want the government and other civic authorities to respect a decision the state legislative assembly adopted in 1999 to acquire 99,000 sq m of land in Aquem village for burial grounds for Christians, Hindus and Muslims.

The administration had acquired around 31,000 sq m of land on the outskirts of Margao, Goa’s commercial capital, for the Muslim burial place. However the plan ran into trouble because of disagreements among Muslims over its location.

The government then decided to locate the burial ground by a garbage dump in Sonsodo village.

In June 2010, Muslims rejected the proposal, but later a section of the community decided to back it amid accusations regarding political affiliations.

Father Fernandes says the Sonsodo site is not conducive for religious observations because of the stench from the garbage dump.

Muslims conduct all night prayers at their burial sites three times a year.

The priest also noted that the Indian Constitution does not allow the government to overrule a legislature’s decision.

In May, the National Commission of Minorities also expressed its disapproval of the site.

However, Chief Minister Digambar Kamat said a month later the government would go ahead with its plans.

(Courtesy: UCAnews.com)

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