Mumbai Police refusing permission for Holy Week religious services

Mumbai: Christians in the city are miffed with the Mumbai Police for refusing them permission to gather for the Holy Week religious services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the following Saturday, to call in the Easter celebrations. Many churches who organise the services in open grounds, which are attached to church-run schools, fall in silent zones, and have thus been denied permission as the services will involve use of loudspeakers.

“Several churches in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai have informed us that they have not been given the written permission to hold the services. Some police stations have said that they will not give anything in writing and will only act if someone complains,” said Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesperson of Archdiocese of Bombay, adding that the police have cited the noise pollution rules. “But it is unfair because the schools will be on holiday.”

While smaller parishes hold the services within the church, larger parishes that have grounds attached prefer to have large gatherings with loudspeakers so that everyone can hear. “These large gatherings have over 2,000 people in attendance. How can one hear without a loudspeaker?” asked Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation that has written to the police. “The rules only prohibit use of loudspeakers between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Our services get concluded well before 10 p.m. Therefore, there is no chance of any breach if we get the written permission.”

With the recent action by the Mumbai High Court pulling up government officials for their failure to implement the noise pollution rules, the police don’t want to take any chances. If the permissions don’t come by Wednesday, the churches have no choice but to shift the services indoors.

Sacred Heart Church in Vashi has already issued a statement for its parishioners. “More than 2,000 parishioners of Sacred Heart Church, Vashi, are likely to be scattered outside the church when they attend the prayer services during the Holy Week on Maundy (Holy) Thursday, Good Friday, and for the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening. This will be the inevitable but heart-breaking fallout of the refusal by the Navi Mumbai Police Commissionerate to grant permission to the church to conduct its observances at the quadrangle of Sacred Heart High School as has been the custom for the past 40 years,” read the statement, adding that the church can accommodate only about 600 people. Parish priest Fr Gerald Fernandes said, “The parishioners are sorely disappointed.”

According to Fr Ronald Tevar, assistant priest at St Pius X church in Mulund, they are considering going ahead with the services but with a controlled decibel level. “We have not been given permission by the Mulund police. But we are thinking of keeping the sound low and continuing with the event.”