Protesting against the state government's plans to set up a cemetery and Slum Rehabilition Authority (SRA) scheme on the Aarey Milk Colony land, tribals in the Colony met members of the civic improvements committee on Thursday to lodge their protest.
Members of the committee, including chairman Sharad Shah-Petiwalla, were on a visit to the area to survey a 5,000 square metre plot, which the state government has directed the BMC to convert into a residential zone and a Muslim cemetery.
The tribal delegation protested against the move to open up the land for development through the cemetery plan and also the proposed move to rehabilitate the adivasis and the slum dwellers in the colony in the SRA scheme.
Said tribal activist Vitthal Lad, who leads the tribal delegation and heads the Shramik Mukti Sanghatana: "We are against the plan to use the green cover of the city for religious or commercial purposes. The tribals are against the proposed SRA scheme, which seeks to displace them from their ancestral villages. We will write to Chief Minister Johny Joseph and Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in this regard."
Said BJP Corporator Ashish Shelar, who first raised the issue in the committee meeting: "If the state government is honest in it's motives, it should have moved a proposal for the conversion of the no-development zone into a cemetery. But the proposal to convert the land into a residential zone and to reserve the same for the Muslim cemetery may be a move to allow construction activities on one of the last green lungs of the city."
However, the opposition Congress accused the BJP-Shiv Sena of adopting double standards. Said Congress corporator and improvements committee member Amin Patel: "While the Muslim cemetery proposal is being opposed, a proposal for a Hindu crematorium ground located on the Aarey milk colony no- development zone (NDZ) land has been passed by the state government. But the BJP-Shiv Sena are keeping mum on that issue while opposing the Muslim cemetery."
The state government earlier this year issued a notification converting a 5,000 square metre plot near the Walbhat Nallah off the Western Express highway into a Hindu crematorium.
The plot is located at a distance of around one-and-a-half kilometers from the land earmarked for the Hindu crematorium.
However, Lad said they would oppose the Hindu crematorium proposal as well.
"The green spaces should not exploited under such guises," he added.
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