Mumbai: Staunch supporters of 'save Aarey forest' movement went on a day-long hunger fast at Azad Maidan, on Saturday. Sanjiv Valsan (42) a freelance photographer and writer organised this hunger strike. Valsan said their demands are not new and they believe a hunger fast can send a strong and non-violent message for justice. "It is baffling why this government is supporting a carshed that could flood our city. Worse still, the government is not ready to have a dialogue with us. Through this hunger strike we are sending a message to the government, we want to talk to you. We are clear, the government should spare Aarey from being destroyed and should not allow any kinds of developmental projects here," said Valsan.
Senior citizens, youngsters, college students, and children took turns to sit in the hunger fast at Azad maidan, holding placards of "Save Aarey."
Meenakshi Shinde, a TYBA (Political Science) student expressed her anguish over the move to cut the forest. "I am not an expert but how can government justify their claim, of no metro carshed, no metro? Interestingly, the authorities had got the permission to cut 2,000 plus trees in August, for the carshed and have spent huge amounts of money on this project. I just want to know how did they proceed with this project if they knew there would be no metro without the carshed?" she questioned.
Ruhaina Khan a Mumbai-based Psychiatrist said she was aghast at the government claims that Aarey is not a forest. "Aarey is just not about trees. Even leopards live there. The bio-diversity is very important and the government needs to realise this. It makes us angry with the false claims made by the authorities," Khan claimed.
The activists reiterated, nobody was against the metro project, but they were against grabbing of part of the forest to construct a carshed, which they say can be shifted to Kanjur Marg, where the government admitted in the Bombay High Court they have extra land.
The day-long hunger strike will continue even today.Valsan said, "Since we did not get permission to continue our hunger protest through the night, we will gather once again on Sunday, to sit the entire day."
Meanwhile, a protest has also been organised at Aarey Colony.