It has been revealed that the mysterious prayer group - Spirit in Jesus- had engaged in land encroachments in Munnar, but the government failed to take action against it despite initiating probe four years back.

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The Crime Branch had formed a special team in 2013 after it was found that Vallikkunnel Scaria and family engaged in large scale encroachments in Munnar. Tom Scaria, who started the Spirit in Jesus group in Idukki, is a member of this family. Even though initial probe found that some revenue officials played hand in glove with the land grabbers, the investigation was mysteriously halted.

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It is suspected that the cross installed in the middle of the plot in Pappathichola was just a cover to large scale land grab. The prayer group used to hold its prayer meetings in the land it occupied in the ecologically sensitive Pappathichola near Munnar. The idea was to develop the area into a spiritual tourism spot. The devotees used to stay at a resort near Pappathichola during the retreat sessions. Incidentally, the resort also stands in a plot illegally occupied by forging title deeds, according to report by Land Revenue Commissioner. Even though Catholic priests used to participate in programmes organised by the group in the early stages, the Catholic Church distanced itself from it later.

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"The movement called Spirit in Jesus is not part of Catholic church," said Fr. Jimmy Poochakkat, spokesperson of Syro-Malabar Church. "The church conducted authentic study about the group and found that it was holding beliefs that contradict the studies of the church," he added. The police on Friday registered case against Tom Scaria and Spirit in Jesus for illegally occupying public land and for installing the cross without prior permission.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had rapped the revenue officials for removing the cross from the site, triggering a controversy in the state. BJP alleged that the Chief Minister was supporting land mafia. The Chief Minster should reveal his connection with the Spirit in Jesus, BJP state president Kummanam Rajashekharan demanded.