Demolition drive triggers protests in New Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh
The CPI(M) moved the Supreme Court against the drive as hundreds of people shouting slogans against took to the streets against it
NEW DELHI: Hundreds of people shouting slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-controlled South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and the central government took to the streets in Shaheen Bagh on Monday when municipal officials arrived there with bulldozers for an anti-encroachment drive. They demanded an immediate halt to the action even as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) moved the Supreme Court against it.
News agency Press Trust of India quoted SDMC’s central zone chairman Rajpal Singh saying that their teams with bulldozers and trucks were in Shaheen Bagh to remove illegal encroachments. “Removal of encroachment is our obligatory function which we are carrying out.”
Additional police forces were deployed to provide security to SDMC officials involved in the drive in Shaheen Bagh, which hit the headlines in 2019 when a protracted sit-in was organised there against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The sit-in was called off in March 2020 in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The CPI(M)’s plea against the SDMC’s drive was expected to be heard along with other petitions against the demolitions carried out in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri last month. The CPI(M’)s lawyer mentioned the plea before Chief Justice of India N V Ramana and sought an urgent hearing. Ramana asked the lawyer to mention the plea before the bench hearing the related matter.
Around 50 structures were razed in Jahangirpuri last month hours before a Supreme Court order halted the demolition drive as municipal administration faced criticism for bypassing laws and targeting communities.
The demolition drive was ordered days after communal clashes left nine people, including eight policemen and a civilian, injured in Jahangirpur.
Bulldozers continued razing structures in Jahangirpuri for over an hour as officials refused to stop the drive until the written Supreme Court order was received. At noon, lawyers rushed back to the court, prompting Ramana to ask the court registry to communicate the order to all officials.
Local residents said they received no notice of the encroachment drive, which had not happened in the area for decades.
The Opposition targeted the BJP over the demolition as CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat visited the site and urged the civic staff to stop the drive instantly in compliance with the Supreme Court order.
BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Karnataka have ordered the razing of properties in areas roiled by communal violence or criminal activity. They have argued that these were part of drives against illegal construction. The Supreme Court is hearing a bunch of cases challenging the legality of the action.