Demolitions in Shaheen Bagh today on SDMC’s action plan
A letter from the civic body to the Delhi Police, sent on May 2, said the drive is expected to start near the main road from Kalindi Kunj Park – barely a few metres from the site that saw a 100-day-long protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act between December 2019 and March 2020.
After being denied police permission to carry out anti-encroachment drives in south-east Delhi twice last week, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has now planned to carry out demolitions in Shaheen Bagh on Thursday as part of a new fortnight-long plan against illegal structures, as per documents seen by HT.
A letter from the civic body to the Delhi Police, sent on May 2, said the drive is expected to start near the main road from Kalindi Kunj Park – barely a few metres from the site that saw a 100-day-long protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act between December 2019 and March 2020. Over the next 15 days, the drive is expected to cover areas till the Jamia Nagar police station, which has also been asked to provide personnel for the demolition action.
The letter by SDMC’s central zone office to the deputy commissioners of police in south-east and south Delhi districts, has asked for personnel to accompany MCD staff to “maintain law and order”.
Deputy commissioner of police (south-east) Esha Pandey refused to comment on the issue.
SDMC’s demolition action plan kicked off on Wednesday morning in Tughlakabad, near Karni Singh Shooting range, which saw bulldozers raze 13 temporary structures, including tea stalls and juice shops on the street. Central zone chairman Rajpal said that police assistance was provided for the drive.
The civic body’s plans come in the wake of a controversial demolition drive by its the North MCD on April 20 in riot-hit Jahangirpuri, where violence broke out during a religious procession four days before that. They followed similar action by BJP governments in several states sparking a massive political controversy over the use of bulldozers as “revenge” against criminals. Opposition parties have alleged that most of those targeted were Muslims -- a charge that the BJP has denied.
Last month, soon after the drive began in Jahangirpuri, the Supreme Court directed the corporation to maintain status quo in the area, and also made it clear that it will examine whether due process was followed before the drive. The apex court also said it may take a “serious view” of the continuance of demolition for almost 90 minutes after North MCD was informed about the court order.
The north civic body’s action came after a letter from Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta. After that drive was stalled, he also wrote to the east and south corporations to identify and bulldoze illegal encroachments.
According to the SDMC plan, after Shaheen Bagh on Thursday, the drive will be carried out from Srinivaspuri Colony to the Gandhi camp near Okhla Railway Station on Friday. The action will resume on Monday with a focus on the Shaheen Bagh main road, starting from Shaheen Bagh (G block) near Jasola canal to Kalindi Kunj Park. The drive will then move to New Friends Colony, with action planned at the Bodh Dharm Mandir near Gurudwara Road next Tuesday, then to Meherchand Market in Lodhi Colony and near Sai Baba temple on Wednesday, Iskcon temple and Kalka Devi Marg on Thursday, and the Khada colony near Kalindi Kunj on Friday.
Rajpal, who is also the deputy standing committee chairman of SDMC, said, “The drive will continue as per the plan and we will start from Kalindi Kunj park on Thursday. These are routine encroachment removal drives as per the law.”
HT earlier reported that the police told SDMC that it was unable to provide sufficient personnel to assist the drive in Jasola on April 28 and Okhla on April 29. The police also said the south-east district is extremely sensitive from a “law-and-order” point of view and that no action is possible against “the sentiments of residents at this stage”
A senior SDMC official that no notices are required to be issued to remove temporary encroachments. “We carry out these drives in different wards all through the year and the action depends on the availability of police,” an official said.
Abdul Wajid Khan, Aam Aadmi Party councillor from ward 102-S which covers areas such as Shaheen Bagh and Abul Fazal Enclave, said the drive near Shaheen Bagh is being planned by the BJP-led corporation to disturb the peace. “We have no such encroachment problem here and we have no objection to the drives, but they should not try to disturb the peace of the region,” he said.
Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor said there are several encroachments from Kalindi Kunj Barrage area to the bylanes of Jamia University Complex. “It is shocking that AAP leaders are saying that there is no encroachment problem in Okhla even as the traffic in entire Jamia Nagar Okhla belt remains choked most day or moves on snail place,” he said.