proximity to a temple.
When MC officials, along with police, reached the spot at Talaab Bazaar on Thursday morning the situation was already tense. Nearly 400 shopkeepers were up in arms against the police and the MC team to protest the demolition of 22 shops close to a temple. Shopkeepers claimed that the shops were a part of a temple and should not be demolished.
Kamaljit Kaur, assistant town planner (ATP) of Zone A, said when the MC team reached the spot around 9 am, it was received by a mob of protesting shopkeepers.
"There were nearly 400 people who stood up against the demolition drive, and did not let us proceed," said Kaur.
The MC had formulated an anti-encroachment plan after the Punjab and Haryana high court orders. The corporation had assigned different dates for demolition of illegal structures in different areas of the city.
"Residents claiming that their properties are a part of religious institutions has become a regular feature. If such claims keep pouring in, it would be difficult to continue the demolition drive," said the ATP.
Meanwhile, as the police and MC officials failed to reach a consensus with the protesters, the temple committee was asked to provide documents to the MC commissioner on Monday.
Later, after on the spot discussions between police and MC officials, it was decided to defer the drive.
Sources said these shops were built on an MC nullah. "The nullah in the area was covered and these 22 shops were constructed on it. These are illegal and should be removed," said an MC official.
"If MC is conducting the demolition drives following high court orders, nothing should come in its way," said a senior official, adding that deferring the drive due to fear of residents was not correct.
On March 13, MC had deferred a demolition drive at Gur Mandi as shopkeepers claimed that their shops were part of the temple in the area. A total of 30 shops were to be demolished in the area. These shops were allegedly built on the MC land.
However, situation took a communal turn when shopkeepers started raising slogans against the MC and police, and claimed that the MC was trying to demolish the temple.