A tale of religious passions

I came across an old diary today, in which I had copied a police notice stuck up on the gates of the Macfarlane Memorial Church in Kalimpong in 1995. The Church stands on a hill overlooking the town, and can be seen from miles around. The police notice was worthy of recording because it is dealing with a dispute between two Christian denominations, the Church of North India (CNI) and the United Church of North India (UNCI) over the right to use the Church that had been erected in the 19th Century in memory of the Scottish missionary, the Rev. William Macfarlane. The dispute had obviously reached a dangerous point:


Whereas the CNI members came to the said church at 8 am on August 6th 1995 to offer their confirmation services and, whereas the UCNI members were already present in the said church and they closed the church from inside and did not allow CNI members to offer worship and whereas a clash between the two groups actually took place on August 6th 1995 at 6pm, and

whereas there is a report from the officer-in-charge Kalimpong Police Station duly forwarded by C.I Kalimpong saying that there has been no improvement in the situation, that there is every likelihood of serious breach of peace, a grave law and order problem, loss of life and bloodhsed if the two denominations are allowed to offer prayers in the said church and,

whereas I, Amrit Baranwal, IAS, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Kalimpong, am satisfied that if any group is allowed to offer worship in the McFarlane Memorial Church Kalimpong, it will arise passion and create a Law and Order problem in Kalimpong…I, Amrit Banawa, IAS, Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Kalimpong do hereby promulgate this order under section 144 Cr. P.C. 1973, prohibiting anyone from entering into the premises and building of McFarlane Memorial Church, Kalimpong.


No doubt the Rev. William Macfarlane was turning in his grave, above which a monument still stands, largely neglected and unnoticed, and sometimes draped with washing laid out to dry, with the following inscription:

In memory of the Rev. William Macfarlane, M.A.,
Missionary of the Church of Scotland,
Born at Dunkeld 5. Jan: 1840,
Ordained 24 Jan 1865
Died at Kalimpong 16. Feb: 1887

“And the servants shall do him service,and they shall see his face.

This monument is erected by his
Margaret Ann Macfarlane.

Jim Coleman's photo.




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