The illegal slum at Neelam Nagar in Mulund (East) — which was burnt down by a mob led by politicians across parties on Sunday — was to be demolished by the collector’s office on Tuesday. However, instead of waiting for legal action against encroachment on government land, the politicians encouraged lawlessness.
Both Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Sardar Tara Singh and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena legislator Shishir Shinde, who have been booked for unlawful assembly and rioting, said that the reaction was “spontaneous”.
Sonali Mule, deputy collector (encroachment removal), said, “There were 50 hutments on the plot. We had been pursuing the matter with the police. We had undertaken the first demolition drive on December 7, followed by one on December 31 and then on January 8. We have been taking all the necessary measures to prevent encroachments on the plot”.
Mule said that the MNS and BJP workers had met her last week over the issue. “There had been an agreement on amicable resolution of the problem. We had planned another demolition on Tuesday,” said Mule.
“The rise in the number of unauthorised slums in the city reflects the failure of the state machinery. We have saved the government land from encroachment. We should be given credit for it, instead of being charged,” said Shinde.
“There has been anger among residents against the illegal slums. We had been receiving repeated complaints from residents in the area. So, we decided to protest on Sunday,” said Singh, who is a member of legislative assembly from Mulund.
The slumdwellers claimed that they were not even allowed to take their belongings. “We lost everything including our clothes and documents such as ration card. While the mob burnt our houses mercilessly, no one came came to our rescue,” said Dinesh Chavan, a resident of the slum, who suffered burns on his back.