Despite the state government staying the demolition of religious structures following public outcry earlier this year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has started issuing demolition notices to those who maintain religious structures on government land and pose a hindrance to development projects such as roads and vehicular traffic in the city.
The drive is expected to create trouble for the Democratic Front Government as the monsoon session of the state legislature begins on Monday and all-party legislators are expected to rake up the issue.
In February-March 2011, the civic body had issued notices to more than 700 religious structures and demolished 63 of them. The structures included temples, mosques and crosses, many built before 1964.
However, the state government stayed such demolitions following public outcry and subsequent discussions in the state legislature and the civic general body in March this year. The state asked the BMC administration to frame guidelines on how to relocate, demolish and regularise shrines built before September 29, 2009, as as per the interim directive of the Supreme Court.
Trustees of the religious shrines said the BMC did not wait for the policy and issued demolition notices to them. BMC’s F-south has served notices on more than 30 shrines in Parel, Kalachowkie, Naigaon, Hindmata, Wadala and Sewri since July 20. “We have received a BMC notice though we submitted all relevant documents to the ward office,” said Sanjay Desai, member of a temple trust in Dadar.
The government resolution dated May 5, 2011, says the civic body should update the list of illegal shrines in the city. It calls for preparing an action plan within 6 months for shifting, demolishing or regularising the structures that existed prior to September 29, 2009. It wants BMC to seek public opinion on the issue.
Chandrashekhar Rokde, in charge of BMC’s encroachment removal cell, did not know about the notices. Harshad Kale, assistant commissioner of F-south ward, said, “We have asked trusts to submit a proposal for shifting structures if they are on a pavement or obstructing the way.”