The Catholic community in Daman, India, is fighting to save a 400-year-old chapel which the Provincial Administrator, Praful Patel, wants to turn into a soccer field.
The Capela da Nossa Senhora das Angstias (Our Lady of Remedies chapel) was established in 1607 by the Portuguese and is a site of worship beloved not just by the Catholic population, but also by non-Catholics in Daman for more than four centuries. And now, the Indian state intends to use the site to construct a soccer field.
The decision to demolish the chapel, which is still in use, was made a month ago when the Daman municipality administration proposed expanding the football field in the Moti Daman neighborhood.
The Indian Express reported that as the word spread, the local Catholic community, led by Father Brian Rodrigues, Mario Lopez, a lawyer, and community leader Diogo Gama, met with Daman Municipality President Sonal Patel and submitted a memorandum opposing the Municipality’s decision to demolish a 400-year-old Catholic chapel in order to expand a football field in the Moti Daman area.
Advocate Mario Lopez stated that they had made representations to the Daman Municipality’s elected leader and are satisfied with the responses. The residents and leaders of the community are vehemently opposed to such demolition. He went on to say that they are prepared to knock on every door in order to save the chapel, and that they are even willing to wage a legal battle for it.
Sonal Patel, council president, supported the community and said that “this must not be done and we stand with the Christian community,” as was reported by the RVA News. Independent council member Pramod Rana shared the president’s views in support of the Catholic community. He claimed that in order to avoid the chapel from being destroyed in this manner, they passed a resolution declaring that the local Catholics must be considered before proceeding with any activity or decision.
The purpose behind acquiring Capela da Nossa Senhora das Angstias, executed under the Indian Property Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Re-Establishment Act 2013 is to extend the football field adjacent to the monument and “beautify” the property. He dismissed this justification, stating that the purchase purpose is based on a very shaky foundation and that there is no legal basis for acquiring the chapel and demolishing it to expand the little football field. You also don’t get the argument that everything is being done to make the place more lovely. “Are we enhancing a place by destroying a church?” he continued.
The community feels that the BJP-led Central government administers Daman and Diu, a federally governed region, directly.
As reported by the RVA News, territory administrator Praful Kodhabai Pratel, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member, neither confirmed nor rejected the decision to demolish the chapel in response to the move to extend the football field. Local Catholics, though, said the administration was steadfast about its destruction plans.
Rui Pereira, a local Catholic leader, stated that if the government acquires the chapel’s land, they may do whatever they want with it, including expanding the football field, which implies flattening the chapel. “We totally comprehend their motives. We are not fools,” he was quoted as adding. Pereira further stated that, despite its architectural antiquity and remarkable wood carving, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has not designated the monument as a heritage structure, and due to ASI’s lack of designation, authorities might raze it to the ground.
Father Brian Rodrigues, who provides religious services in the chapel, said, “They intend to take the case to the High Court in Mumbai.”