Mumbai: Locals Protest Against ‘Illegal’ Gurudwara Inside Joggers Park In Andheri's Lokhandwala

Mumbai: Locals Protest Against ‘Illegal’ Gurudwara Inside Joggers Park In Andheri's Lokhandwala

Encroachment at the park, known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Joggers Park located in K West Ward, has reportedly transformed into a religious site without obtaining any permissions.

RUCHA KANOLKARUpdated: Thursday, March 21, 2024, 11:06 PM IST
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Locals Protest Against ‘Illegal’ Gurudwara Inside Joggers Park In Andheri's Lokhandwala | FPJ

Mumbai: In Andheri’s Lokhandwala, residents are opposing an alleged illegal Gurudwara and open kitchen within the joggers park. Encroachment at the park, known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Joggers Park located in K West Ward, has reportedly transformed into a religious site without obtaining any permissions.

Residents have voiced concerns over unauthorised activities within the park premises, including the cooking and serving of langar (free food) without legal sanction, running catering businesses, and converting the caretaker’s room into a religious space – Gurudwara.

Additionally, the park is being utilised for various activities, including hosting marriages. Complaints have been filed regarding this construction being within 50 mt of the mangrove area.

Despite complaints, construction on the extension of a caretaker’s cabin commenced in March 2022, followed by the inauguration of the Gurudwara in October.

The open kitchen, which was initially established during COVID-19, remains operational to this day. Developed in 2003, the park is presently maintained by the Celebration Sports Club. Approximately 600 residents staged a protest demanding the removal of the alleged illegal structures.

Anuj Mittal, Secretary of the Lokhandwala Joggers Park Association, said, “There is ongoing construction in the center of the park, which now serves as a restroom facility. Nearly all park-goers are opposed to this development, as it deviates from the park’s original purpose. We are witnessing an expansion of religious activities, which is encroaching upon the open space intended for residents. Despite a letter from the Tehsildar to the ward officer, the BMC has yet to take any action. We have been informed that the park is not under the BMC’s jurisdiction, although the forest department claims otherwise.”

Prashant Rane, an MNS activist, said, “Gurudwara attracts hundreds of visitors. Despite its location in a corner, joggers are disturbed by the increased foot traffic. The BMC issued notices regarding the structure. Initially, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they began offering free meals, which went unopposed as it served the needy. Later, langar became a weekly occurrence. During the lockdown, the park office was swiftly transformed into a Gurudwara overnight. This encroachment is concerning, and residents fear the loss of open space. While we respect all religions and their rituals, our concern lies with the encroachment. This park serves as a vital green lung for Lokhandwala’s densely populated area, providing the only significant jogging space amidst the urban landscape.”

Forest Conservation and Development Committee and Tehsildar of Andheri, penned a letter to Assistant Commissioner Prithviraj Chouhan of the K West Ward on March 12.

The letter outlined that the Forest Conservation Department conducted an inspection on March 4, during which they discovered the presence of a Gurudwara, an open kitchen, and a toilet.

The letter emphasised the necessity to restore the area by removing the unauthorised construction, which violated the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification of 1991 and the orders of the High Court of Mumbai.

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