Vikhroli resident Anwar Shaikh (38) has been locked in a long-drawn battle to procure a cemetery for Muslims in the locality. On July 29, more than two years after he started his campaign to ensure the 17,399 sq-m plot in Tagore Nagar, marked as a cemetery in the civic body's Development Plan (DP), is used as one, he received a death threat.
Shaken, the civil contractor filed a police complaint on the same day. However, Shaikh, who is married and has two children, has decided to continue his battle. "The only way to defeat the cowards who threatened me on the phone is by ensuring I succeed in getting our cemetery on the plot," Shaikh said.
His campaign for a Muslim cemetery began in 2007 after he realised that the plot had been reserved for a cemetery. "I got information from the local municipal office that there was no civic Muslim cemetery in the ward despite it having a Muslim population of 9.45 lakh," he said.
With these figures in hand, Shaikh approached the municipal corporation's DP department requesting them to develop it into a cremation ground.
"The plot is with the Collector who replied to the BMC saying that as the plot is the subject of a court case, it could not be handed over to the BMC," Shaikh said. A copy of the Collector's letter is with HT.
Soon after, Shaikh saw that two builders had put up boards on the plot announcing an IT park and a district centre.
Using the Right to Information Act, Shaikh discovered that the plot's lease had been renewed. "The Collector tells the civic body the plot is sub-judice and cannot be handed over and then renews the lease. How can the lease be renewed if the matter is in court?" he said. Shaikh was all set to approach the chief minister when he got the threat. "An unknown person screamed obscenities and threatened to kill me if I didn't back off," he said.
Mumbai Suburban Collector Nirmalkumar Deshmukh, who wrote to the municipal corporation saying the plot is under litigation, told HT: "I am not aware of court proceedings relating to the plot. Its lease was renewed recently." Deshmukh added that as the plot is under lease, having a cemetery there would be difficult.
Sanjay Shintre, DCP, Zone 7, said, "I'll have to look into it and then decide on the next step."