BMC efforts to shift protesters in Tilak Nagar go in vain

Public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied (for protests) that too indefinitely, the Supreme Court of India had ruled while asking the Shaheen Bagh protests going on in New Delhi. The ruling seems to be not well understood by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and nearly a hundred protestors at Tilak Nagar area in suburban Chembur.

This could be said so as despite removing protestors, they have returned to the site and continue to block a portion of the road with the civic body keeping mum on the issue.

The protests by these persons were called way back in 2018 with certain grievances and demands against the developer, who has redeveloped around 700 slums in the area.

The peaceful protests have been going on in a pandal spread over 20 meters of a public road just next to the Amar Mahal junction. However, the protests were to be stopped as the pandal that stood on the public road, was to be removed due to a pending road widening project.

The BMC's M West ward, armed with around two earthmoving machines, half a dozen dumpers, 50 plus policemen and civic staff, had pulled down the pandal in question, on December 1. The demolition and encroachment removal process was monitored by over 50 personnel from the State Reserved Police Force (SRPF).

If the civic officials are to be believed, usually such a huge demolition action would cost around Rs 4 to 5 lakh, provided that the same is carried out by a private contractor. "However, this action was done by the state and civic officials alone," an officer privy to the action told the Free Press Journal.

The action took place on December 16 and even before the civic body could enforce its road widening work the protestors returned to the site.

"We removed all the encroachment including the pandal on December 6. We had started the action around 9 in the morning and finished the task by 1 in the noon," the officer said.

"But within a few hours of the action, the protestors returned to the site. And now after four to five days, they have started putting up a pandal. Despite all this, our department isn't taking any action," the officer alleged.

When contacted ward officer Prithviraj Chouhan, he said, "We will be taking proper action against the protestors as per the due procedure of law."

The officer, however, did not comment on what would be the future course of action.

Meanwhile, the developer against whom the protests are being carried out - Arihant Realtors, has a separate story to narrate.

Chaitanya Mehta from Arihan Realtors told FPJ that the protestors are having some "ulterior motives."

"We have already provides the redeveloped flats to around 560 families. Some 144 are yet to be given the possession and for that we have started the construction work," Mehta said.

"These people initially demanded construction of two Buddh Vihars (worship place) and we never denied the same. We said that as per the SRA rules we will construct the religious places within the redeveloped building's premises. However, they want the same to be constructed on the premises of the private building that is meant to be sold," Mehta pointed out.

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