The demolition of a shopping complex in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday morning killed four members of a family and injured one person, triggering protests and tension in the area.
Authorities rushed rescue personnel and a team of the National Disaster Relief Force to the western UP town as experts warned many more people could be buried under the rubble.
Police registered a case against officials of the Meerut Cantonment Board that carried out the razing as hundreds of angry traders and local residents gathered around the site, shouting slogans and alleging negligence.
“We have registered a case against the chief executive officer, executive engineer and the demolition team in Sadar police station,” said deputy inspector general Laxmi Singh. The district magistrate ordered an inquiry.
Police identified the deceased as 42-year-old Deepak Sharma, his son Honey and brother-in-law Pankaj. One more family member remained unidentified.
Sources said Deepak ran a food joint at his residence near the complex and got trapped under the rubble along with his family.
Sources said the property dispute began when a four-storeyed shopping complex and housing units were constructed on 210 B Bungalow estate – which reportedly belonged to the defence forces -- in 1996.
The board approached the lower court, which ordered that the buildings be demolished.
The builder then moved the Allahabad high court, which upheld the demolition order.
The board officials attempted to demolish the building a few days ago but were compelled to go back due to public protests. They came back again on Saturday morning along with police, administrative officials and army jawans and began demolishing the building when the incident occurred.
Jagmohan Shakal, a former member of the Cantonment Board, termed the incident as a massacre, and accused army and administrative officials of running away from the spot instead of rescuing the trapped people.
Local residents shouted slogans against local BJP parliamentarian Rajendra Agarwal when he visited the spot and forced him to go back.
They also protested outside the residence of the Cantonment Board CEO and at the board’s office, forcing officials to leave the premises, sources said.
Sunil Dua, president of the Sadar Vyapar Mandal, demanded the termination of the board officials for allowing the illegal construction and demolishing it in an allegedly haphazard manner.