Lots in a name: Justice meets atonement in the Delhi Ridge
The names — insaaf means justice in Urdu, and maafi is pardon/atonement — come after a series of orders by the Delhi high court, which has asked various parties to plant fresh saplings in the Delhi ridge in lieu of having first information reports (FIR) against them quashed.Updated: Dec 16, 2019 02:57 IST
The Central Ridge and the Southern Ridge, large reserved forest areas in the national capital, appear to have assumed new identities: Insaaf Bagh and Maafi Bagh.
The names — insaaf means justice in Urdu, and maafi is pardon/atonement — come after a series of orders by the Delhi high court, which has asked various parties to plant fresh saplings in the Delhi ridge in lieu of having first information reports (FIR) against them quashed.
The court’s orders have been referring to the areas earmarked for this plantation as Insaaf Bagh and Maafi Bagh to specify which part of the Delhi Ridge they want the new trees planted in.
The terminology has caught on, first among locals in the area, and then quasi officially. A board describing the Southern Ridge as “Maafi Bagh” came up in November, ostensibly installed by a government department.
While officials from the forest department declined to comment, Delhi environment minister Kailash Gahlot said the matter had not come to his knowledge until now. “There is a naming authority that should be consulted for changes,” he said.
One of the court’s orders, by justice Najmi Waziri, dated February 18, 2019, stated that the Delhi government counsel Rahul Mehra suggest that it may be apt to regard the area of the Southern Ridge where the compensatory plantation would be carried out as Maafi Bagh.
“Thus far, the Court has directed plantation of trees primarily in the Southern Ridge. Since the directions for plantation are in the nature of atonement for criminal cases against the parties concerned, Mr Mehra suggests that it may be apt to regard, the area where the plantation would be carried out, as Maafi Bagh (Atonement Park),” the order read.
Another order by justice Najmi Waziri, delivered on November 15, about the digging of bore wells for the adequate watering of the saplings planted in the ridge, said: “The Delhi Jal Board shall file a copy of... number of water-laden tankers being supplied to the forest department for watering of trees in Insaaf Bagh (Central Ridge) and Maafi Bagh (Southern Ridge).”
The Central Ridge, located near Karol Bagh, is spread over 864 hectares, of which 423 hectares are managed by the forest department. The Southern Ridge, which is the biggest section of the Delhi Ridge, is spread over 6,200 hectares.
In more than 100 cases, the court has given specific number of trees to be planted in each of these pockets. A total of 65,000 trees have been planted in the two areas so far.
In one particular case, the court ordered 200,000 trees to be planted. However, forest officials had told the court that the Ridge did not have enough space.
CR Babu, professor emeritus at Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystem in Delhi University, in a report on such plantation in the Central Ridge, had said, “This area has a fragile ecosystem. Indiscriminate large-scale plantation will disturb the groundwater recharging zones and the biodiversity.” In July this year, the court had asked the forest department to seek Prof Babu’s assistance for the plantation.
According to advocate Mehra, who is representing the Delhi government’s forest department in the matter, the names came up during deliberations in the court to reflect the nature of the plantation.“The quashing of FIRs relating to various cases of harassment, dowry etc. would otherwise invite a monetary penalty for the litigants, but asking them to rather plant trees for it is an innovative idea by justice Waziri. The Urdu word for penance or forgiveness is Maafi, and hence the name of the area. I don’t know if the forest department plans to do it officially, but they could give it a thought.”
According to environmentalists, since these are reserved forests, naming of any part of the Ridge needs a prior notification.
Fayaz Khudsar, wildlife biologist, said, “A reserved forest itself is a legal entity and therefore if any name is suggested, it needs to be notified. Ultimately, what is required in the ridge is the restoration of its native ecosystem belonging to the Aravalli hill ranges.”