After 22 years of fighting, residents of Kurla may soon see the iconic Gandhi Maidan free of encroachments.
Last week, the deputy collector’s office issued notices to the 30 illegal structures on the maidan asking them to vacate the ground by June 26.
This comes after a case filed by a man who owned structures in the maidan was disposed off by the high court last year. The deputy collector’s office had then sent notices to the illegal settlements to furnish their eligibility proofs on January 24. The eligible ones were to be shifted to a plot reserved as a playground and the others would be demolished.
Officials claimed the owners were given sufficient time to prove their pre-1995 eligibility. However, since they failed to do so, they have now been issued a deadline to vacate the ground. “If they don’t leave on their on their own then we will demolish these structures,” said PV Bagul, Naib Tehsildar.
The 2,505 sqm open space is one of the oldest in the city and has an historic importance as the first Samyukta Maharashtra movement meeting was organised there in the early 1960s.
For the past two decades, residents of the area had been staging protests against the encroachment under the banner of the Gandhi Maidan Bacchao Andolan. They conducted public meetings, met authorities and carried out signature campaigns to keep the movement going.
“Earlier, the authorities could not take any action on the encroachers since the matter was pending in the high court. But now they should act fast and free the maidan of the encroachments,” said Vishwas Kamble, working president of the Gaurishankar Krida Mandal, a group working actively to save the open space.
Residents said they would launch a mass protest if the authorities don’t free the ground.
Anna Prabhudesai, who had participated in the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement and is a member of the senior citizen group fighting to save the ground, said: “We were determined to fight till the end to save this ground for our grandchildren. Now we will ensure that the ground remains open for public.”