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Fishermen begin week-long protest against Shivaji statue

More than 5,000 boats will fly black flags on the day of bhoomipoojan

mumbai Updated: Dec 16, 2016 00:22 IST
Badri Chatterjee
(Artist’s impression of the memorial)

Fishermen are set to stage protests against the proposed construction of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj statue, from Friday till December 24 – the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the project.

Members of the Akhil Maharashtra Machimar Kriti Samiti (AMMKS), an association of fishermen from Cuffe Parade Machimar Nagar, Geeta Nagar (near Navy Nagar), near Raj Bhawan and Backbay Parade will fly black flags on their boats and homes as a sign of protest.

“We have support from fishermen all across Maharashtra. On December 24, three main wholesale fish markets – Sassoon dock, Bhaucha Dhakka, and Crawford will be shut. A 100 other domestic markets too will be shut,” said Damodar Tandel, president, AMMKS. “More than 5,000 boats will fly black flags on the day of bhoomipoojan, to bring the issue to PM Modi’’s notice.”

He said fishermen from Uran, Bhandup, Panvel and Raigad will join the agitation in south Mumbai. “Fisherwomen will form a human chain from Nariman Point to Girgaum Chowpatty, holding black flags, when PM Modi arrives for the inauguration,” said Tandel.

The 192-metre-tall statue of the Maratha king has been planned on a rocky outcrop roughly 1.5km from the Raj Bhavan shore.

According to the Akhil Maharashtra Machimar Kriti Samiti, the livelihood of 1.5 lakh fishermen residing across five villages in south Mumbai, who have 1,500 large boats and 450 small boats currently along the stretch, will be affected by the construction.

State government officials said the fishing community’s agitation is meant to gain publicity.

“Arrangements for adequate security have been made for the bhoomipoojan. No protests can mar the auspicious occasion,” said Vinayak Mete, head of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Smarak Samiti, the group appointed by the state government to implement the project.

Lawyer representing fishermen writes to PM Modi

The lawyer representing the fishing community Akhil Maharashtra Machimar Kriti Samiti has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him not to come to Mumbai for the foundation stone laying ceremony

“The proposed project is against the environment and will destroy aquatic life in the Arabian Sea. The Prime Minister would not like to become the reason for irreparable damage to the environment,” said Asim Sarode, legal counsel.

The next hearing at NGT, Pune is scheduled for December 22 when the Union environment ministry and other environment research institutes have been asked to submit their findings regarding ecological damage of the project.

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