Censured by the Bombay high court for being "spineless" and "ridiculous", the Maharashtra government on Thursday assured that it would try to amicably settle the issue of the recent encroachment of a textile mill in central Mumbai by followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar, failing which the squatters will be evicted.
"Government will make efforts to settle the issue and get the followers to vacate the mill premises voluntarily within a week. If the government does not succeed then the encroachers would be evicted forcibly within three days thereafter," additional government pleader GW Mattos told the court.
A division bench of justices DK Deshmukh and AV Mohta was hearing a petition filed by the National Textile Corporation (NTC) seeking directions to Mumbai police and state government to evict the encroachers who forced their way into the India United Mill compound on December 6 demanding an Ambedkar memorial there.
The statement was made after the court came down heavily on the government for its inaction against the encroachers. "We are in complete dismay over the stand adopted by the government. Why are you (government) supporting this blatant illegality? Government is spineless and has reduced itself to a ridiculous situation," justice Deshmukh said.
The court's remark came when it was informed that the government has initiated dialogue with the activists from various factions and is negotiating the matter. "There is no question of negotiation. You should remove them by force. Would you (government) have held negotiations with the terrorists who entered Taj hotel also? The mob has illegally entered a land which belongs to the government of India," the bench said.
Counsels for the Anandraj Ambedkar-led Republican Sena told the court that they were ready to give an undertaking that the activists would voluntarily vacate the premises if the Centre made a statement that a portion of the land would be given to construct the memorial.
Irked by this, justice Deshmukh said, "How can you threaten the government like this? You have made your point and got attention. Now you should voluntarily go away. Politicians will support you as they always want their share of attention."
There was heavy police deployment outside the high court premises following rumours that RPI activists would stage a protest there.
The two houses of Maharashtra legislature had recently adopted a resolution asking the Centre to hand over the entire 12.5 acres of INDU Mills land to the state government for Ambedkar Memorial.
The resolution was moved by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan following a heated debate over Centre’s offer of just four acres of the land of the mills for the memorial.
INDU Mills is located next to Chaityabhoomi where Ambedkar was cremated. Chaityabhoomi, over the years, has become a shrine of sorts for his followers.