Mumbai: Residents of some housing societies in Khar’s Gulab Nagar area are engaged in a bitter stand-off with a non-profit organisation that runs an animal rehabilitation centre opposite the buildings, with ugly verbal spats often taking place between the two sides. Matters came to a head a week ago, when a volunteer at the centre was assaulted and molested by two brothers residing in the area.
Residents of the buildings allege that the centre does not have necessary permissions to operate in the area, and that foul odour from the centre, and dog and cat poop being thrown on the road outside the centre, have made the area filthy. They also claim that dogs barking at night disturb the peace and result in sleepless nights for them.
The NGO that runs the centre, Youth Organisation in Defence of Animals (YODA), however, has refuted the claims, saying it is being harassed and intimidated by local residents who do not care about animals and want them out of the area.
To back its claims, YODA has put out CCTV footage from the area from February 6 on social media, in which a woman volunteer can be seen being physically assaulted by two men. In the CCTV footage, the woman is pushed against her scooter and the two men try to strangle her. They keep beating her while she lays fallen on the road.
YODA has also approached the Khar police and submitted eight hours of CCTV camera recordings.
“We have booked two men from the area – brothers Ariz and Aslam Shaikh for criminal intimidation, assault and molestation. Aslam has been arrested, and we are on the lookout for Ariz,” said Gajanan Kabdule, senior police inspector, Khar.
Residents also allege YODA has laid down an illegal pipeline through which chemical waste is dumped. The resident met local BJP MLA Ashish Shelar and BJP corporator Swapna Mhatre on Tuesday, and raised their grievances about the animal rehabilitation centre.
Fakhrudin Lokhandwala, an 80-year-old resident of Lokhandwala House, said, “The YODA volunteers throw rubbish in my compound, which smells foul. My wife is a cancer patient, and it affects her health. I have to close down all the windows of my house due to the smell.”
“When I complain about this to them (YODA), they threaten me. We are senior citizens; where should we go,” he asked. Nandu Sonawane, another local resident, alleged, “They have started this animal rehabilitation centre 2-3 years ago without any permission and licenses. We suffer a lot because of the centre.
Dogs suddenly start barking at night, due which we can't sleep peacefully. This is not my personal issue. There are 300 people living in Gulab Nagar who face these issues too.”
Sangeeta Thakur, a Chuim Court building resident, said, “Dogs keep barking day and night, due to which I suffer. I am a migraine patient, and the noise affects me a lot. Foul smell from the centre adds to my woes.” Pooja Sakpal, a trustee of YODA, rubbished these claims by residents.
“Local residents and their allegations of the centre being illegal don't have any proof to back such absurd and false claims. I have proof in the form of a video, in which one of them can be seen attempting to murder a woman volunteering with us,” said Sakpal.
“If their claims were actually true and they had genuine grievances, they could've spoken. Because their allegations are completely baseless, they decided to resort to manhandling a volunteer. If anything illegal was happening on the property, BMC would have intervened. They hate animals, while we are trying to be the voice of the voiceless,” Sakpal said.