MCD bulldozers raze 50 shops near Delhi’s largest burial ground

Updated on Jun 23, 2022 12:56 AM IST
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) on Wednesday began a drive to demolish illegal structures located on the periphery of Jadid Qabristan Ahle Islam, the largest graveyard in the city, in central Delhi’s ITO, razing to ground 50 commercial structures, a civic body spokesperson said
Jadid Qabristan Ahle Islam, at ITO in New Delhi, served as a designated burial ground for those who died due to Covid-19. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)
Jadid Qabristan Ahle Islam, at ITO in New Delhi, served as a designated burial ground for those who died due to Covid-19. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) on Wednesday began a drive to demolish illegal structures located on the periphery of Jadid Qabristan Ahle Islam, the largest graveyard in the city, in central Delhi’s ITO, razing to ground 50 commercial structures, a civic body spokesperson said.

The dive will continue tomorrow, the spokesperson added.

An MCD demolition squad with three bulldozers reached the area around 11.15 and began the drive under the protection of at least two dozen policemen. All structures removed on Wednesday were commercial establishments. MCD officials said 18,000 square metres of encroached public land has been freed.

The drive continued till late evening during which the electricity supply of the area also remained disrupted.

Jadid Qabristan Ahle Islam is spread over an area of 45 acres. It was also one of the designated burial sites for Covid-19 victims.

Haji Qayumuddin, who heads the graveyard managing committee, said the management has nothing to do with the shops, and added that the structures were located adjacent to the boundary wall of the burial ground. “Minor parts of boundary wall sections have been damaged at some places and we will repair it. This land occupied by the structures does not belong to the burial ground. This used to be a public footpath several decades back and apparently permanent structures have come up on old street vending Tehbazari spaces,” he added.

While the encroachment removal drive did not enter the premises of the burial ground, a cautious relatives of the people buried at the site were present during the drive. Mohammad Saleem, a resident of the Walled City, said that he came as a matter of “precaution” to ensure that grave stones near the boundary wall are not damaged.

**MCD spokesperson comment awaited on damage**

An entire 450-500 metre stretch behind the office spaces located on the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg had one to two storey structures which were being used as offices, storage areas, dhabas, etc.

MA Burni, 45, who operated three offices in the area including a news outlet, Aman News, called the demolition exercise “illegal”. “We have been here for several decades. We have paid electricity, water bills and have general power of attorney. The vacation notices had been issued by the MCD but we have challenged it in the court and the next date of hearing is July 15. My three shops have been razed,” he added.

While the van belonging to Aman News was stuffed with air-conditioner, water bottles and office supplies, Yogender Pradhan, 39, stood besides heap of old books with yellowing pages. Pradhan, who ran ‘YK book binding’ from a rented shop, said he has been doing business from the premises for almost a decade . “We have been able to take out some books but a large amount of material is buried in the rubble. They could have at least allowed us to take the material out,” he added.

Gopal Krishan, a worker employed in one of the shops said that his family has been deprived of the livelihood. “I have a wife and two toddlers to feed. How will I make ends meet? Why has MCD suddenly woken up about the shops,” he asked.

Mohammad Shakeel, one of the occupants of a building said that the property has been with the family from several decades. “We are now left to collect scrap and rubble. Who will compensate us?”

A senior MCD official said that most of the buildings targeted on Wednesday were permanent structures which had come up on public land. “The action has been taken as per a Delhi high court order. The occupants had lost cases in all forums and a detailed hearing has been given to each one of them. None of them could show any proof of ownership. Encroachment removal drive was planned after hearing them out. The space cleared is a public road,” he added.

Encroachment removal drives, an otherwise routine function of the civic body, have come under the scanner after a controversial demolition drive by its the North MCD on April 20, four days after the area was hit by communal violence.

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