Mumbai: State Forest Department Demolishes 50-60 Shops & Lodges On Malanggad Hillock In Anti-Encroachment Drive

Mumbai: State Forest Department Demolishes 50-60 Shops & Lodges On Malanggad Hillock In Anti-Encroachment Drive

Many of the properties brought down by the authorities were as old as 70 years, causing a loss of livelihood to several residents, who have been living in the area for generations.

Musab QaziUpdated: Friday, July 05, 2024, 11:07 AM IST
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PM

Claiming encroachment on forest land, the state forest department on Thursday razed around 50-60 shops and lodges at Malanggad hillock near Kalyan, known for Haji Malang Dargah (shrine).

The demolition drive, which started early in the morning, was carried out at settlements on the top of the hill as well as in its foothill. By the time a local court in Kalyan put a halt on the demolitions, the forest staff was done for the day.

Many of the properties brought down by the authorities were as old as 70 years, causing a loss of livelihood to several residents, who have been living in the area for generations. The Dargah, which is visited by people across the faiths, is a site of a decades-old political and communal dispute. While the shrine is associated with the medieval Sufi saint Haji Abd-ul-Rahman, certain Hindu outfits in 1980s started claiming that the structure is a Hindu shrine belonging to the Nath Panth, an order of yogis.

Earlier this year Chief Minister Eknath Shinde raked up the issue, as he pledged to ‘liberate’ the shrine. The demolition comes a week after the Badlapur range forest officer issued notices to around 800 establishments in the hilly area, including the shrine, other places of worship, houses, shops and lodges.

The authorities claimed that these properties had encroached on the forest land and asked the owners to furnish relevant documents to prove their legal ownership within three days.

While the locals claim that they submitted the necessary documents within the stipulated time. Shaukat Khan, whose family has been staying on the hill since 1956, said that part of his 70-year-old flower shop was razed.

“We have legally rented the land for our shop from the trust managing the Dargah, and have the relevant proofs. After receiving the notice, we submitted a plea to authorities that we needed more time to reply. However, they went ahead and demolished all four rooms of our property, while keeping its roof intact. I am now left without a source of income,” he said.

The forest department, however, claimed that they followed the due process before carrying out the ‘regular’ demolition exercise on Thursday. “There was a landslide in the area a fortnight ago and we wanted to avoid any untoward incident on the hilly terrain. These are illegal structures constructed on forest lands, and had narrowed down the street, which is thronged by thousands of pilgrims,” said an official.

“We had told the authorities that if they think that there was a risk of landslide, they should provide alternative accommodation to the homes in danger zone. Instead, they carried out demolitions in the market area,” said Shaukat Ansari, a trustee of the shrine.

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