An aggressive mob hurled stones at MC staff and police during an anti-encroachment drive at Rajiv Gandhi Colony on Friday. Sources said over 15, including slum dwellers, commuters, MC officials and cops, were injured during the incident and some JCB machines were also damaged. This was in response to mild lathi charge by police when slum dwellers gathered to oppose the demolition drive conducted by the civic body on orders of Punjab and Haryana high court.
The MC, supported by 70 cops, started demolishing slums in the area at around 9am. Within minutes, 500 slum dwellers gathered there to oppose the drive and stood in front of JCB machines. When police responded with mild lathi charge, the slum dwellers lifted bricks and stones and blindly started hurling them at cops and MC staff forcing them to go back. The mob hurled stones at even at journalists while some hit the commuters passing through Metro Road near a temple.
The cops also reportedly retaliated by throwing back stones. As the number of cops were less as compared to the agitators armed with lathis and rods, the MC officials and police had no choice but to return. The mob then blocked the Metro Road with further plans to block Chandigarh Road. The protesters did not allow anyone to pass through the road. They sat on a dharna and raised slogans against the Congress government and MLA Sanjay Talwar. They also burnt effigies of Congress leaders.
The slum dwellers claimed that they did not receive any notice about the demolition drive. They added that the MC authorities had turned a blind eye on the encroachments raised by ‘influential’ persons in the area.
One of them, Gulshan, said, “We did not receive any notice. We have lived here for 35 years now. The children were sleeping when the MC teams and police reached here to conduct the drive. A few pigs were also killed during the drive and we were given no time to take our possessions out of our houses.”
After the clash, the MC staff and police were forced to go back to Mohini Resorts on Chandigarh Raod where they had gathered in the morning to finalise the plan to conduct the drive.
“Many of us were injured during the drive and lathi charge. Before elections, we were shown dreams of rehabilitation but we are homeless now,” said another slum dweller.
The mob was so aggressive till afternoon that they forced the patrolling team to go back.
MC’s drive unsuccessful
The MC was ordered to demolish around 2,000 encroachments at Focal Point area including Rajiv Gandhi Colony before April 28, the day of the hearing of a contempt petition. Sources said the encroachments were raised on an area where a road is to be constructed.
Only 70 cops against demand of 300
Assistant town planner Satish Kumar, who got injured during the drive, said, “We were accompanied by 65 cops against the demand of 300 cops. Despite that, we removed around 70 encroachments.”
Municipal town planner SS Bindra said, “We have written to the higher authorities to lodge an FIR against the accused for disrupting the drive and hurling stones at us. The MC police was searching the slums to ensure that nobody remains inside while the district police force was for our security.”
An official, requesting anonymity, claimed that the drive was unsuccessful due to the negligence of police as the required number of cops were not sent to ensure the security of MC officials.
Families left homeless
Many families kept their articles on the road and were in tears after the demolition drive. “We can’t afford to stay in rented accommodation as my income is low,” said a man, who lifts garbage.
Political drama begins
Over two hours after the clash, leaders of the Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal, Aam Aadmi Party and others made a beeline to listen to grievances of the slum dwellers.
Ludhiana East MLA Sanjay Talwar assured the protesters that the Congress government will ensure their rehabilitation, following which they lifted their protest from Metro Road.
Talwar alleged that the leaders of other political parties were aggravating the mob to intensify their agitation and block Chandigarh Road. “I went there to control the situation and request the mob to calm down,” he said.
Ward 8 councillor Daljeet Singh Grewal also joined the protest while former Akali MLA Ranjit Singh Dhillon met the slum dwellers.