Kerala: On Saturday, a village officer ordered the demolition and removal of crosses planted by a Christian church on the hills of Panchalimedu by Monday. The sacred forests of Panchalimedu, associated with the Sabarimala temple, in Idukki district of Kerala have recently seen a massive encroachment by a Christian church. It is also said that the intrusion into the sacred land has been supported by the communist government of Kerala.
The encroached land is known as ‘Poonkavanam’ in Kerala. A Hindu activist, Pratheesh Vishwanath, took to social media and shared a video of how the numerous crosses were placed on the hills. Further, he accused the government of supporting the activities of the Church. 

Panchalimedu, is considered a sacred place for local Hindus and was named after Panchali/Draupadi as it is believed to be a place inhabited by the Pandavas during the 12 years of exile. On Makar Sankranti, devotees of Ayyappa set camp on the hill of Panchalimedu to witness the Makaravilakku (holy flame) that appears on the Ponnambalamedu hill near the Sabarimala temple.

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Currently, one can find crosses planted for over kilometres on this sacred land. The church has already established boards and an arch in the forest area claiming it as a Christian pilgrimage centre. 

This strategy of occupying land by planting crosses is not new, Christian organisations have, in the past decades, attempted to grab Sabarimala lands in Nilakkal by claiming that they had unearthed a stone cross established by Jesus’ apostle Saint Thomas in 57 A.D. In 2017, a Christian evangelical group based out of Thrissur attempted to grab land in a similar manner in Munnar.