From a scene before battle, the stage set for demolition of illegal buildings in Bathinda on Thursday became a political arena in no time. A team from the improvement-trust was ready to reclaim land near Sirhind Canal on the GT Road. On Wednesday night, it had taken possession of the space near its building by bringing down an unauthorised boundary wall and a room.
Thursday's operation on the national highway, however, ran into opposition from the land grabbers. The protesters asked the administration for time to be able to take the appeal to the apex court.
When the police arrived, the agitators ended their blockade of the GT Road (also Bathinda-Goniana road). Shortly thereafter, they were back on the spot along with close aides of Sarup Chand Singla, local legislator and chief parliamentary secretary for excise and taxation.
The improvement trust has won the land back after 22 years. On Wednesday, JCB (Joseph Cyril Bamford, earth-moving) machines were moved to the site after the high court verdict.
On Thursday, the Bathinda-Goniana road and blockade of the 60-foot highway that joins the Barnala bypass were waiting to be cleared. Protestors raising slogans against Singla turned in his favour the moment it was clear that the supporters of the CPS were with them.
Affected traders appear to mistrust the CPS. A man whose shop was demolished on Wednesday spoke his mind. "Raju Bhatthewala, close aide of Sarup Chand Singla, who is now sitting in protest with the other shopkeepers on the Goniana road, himself demolished the shops and opened a gate of his hotel on the road," he said. "The gate of the hotel under construction opened in a residential area but now it faces the main road, which will benefit Bhatthewala."
The administration has not given the protesters deadline to move out, but asked them to vacate the land as soon as possible, deputy commissioner KK Yadav has confirmed.