Kurla locals save their maidan after 22 yr fight

After 22 years of fighting against encroachers, residents of Kurla, mostly senior citizens, including a 102-year-old former Samyukta Maharashtra movement activist, have succeeded in saving a historical open space – Gandhi Maidan. Bhavika Jain reports.
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Updated on Jan 23, 2011 12:34 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByBhavika Jain, Mumbai

After 22 years of fighting against encroachers, residents of Kurla, mostly senior citizens, including a 102-year-old former Samyukta Maharashtra movement activist, have succeeded in saving a historical open space – Gandhi Maidan.

The 2,505 sq m open space is one of the oldest in the city and has historical importance as the first Samyukta Maharashtra movement meeting was organised there in the 1950s.

After a court case filed by a man who owned structures in the maidan was disposed of last year, the deputy collector's office has given the owners of 30 other structures notices to furnish their eligibility proofs on January 24. The eligible ones will be shifted from the plot reserved as a playground. The others will be demolished.

“As the case was pending in the high court, authorities were not taking any action against encroachers till now,” said Vishwas Kamble, working president of the Gaurishankar Krida mandal, a group actively working to save this only open space in the vicinity.

PV Bagul, Nayab Tehsildar, said notices to owners of these structures were issued on January 11 and 13 after inspecting the area. “We are going to give them a hearing on Monday and whoever shows us the pre-1995 eligibility, will be given alternative accommodation and the others will be razed,” Bagul said.

Over the last two decades, locals had been staging agitations under the banner of Gandhi Maidan Bachao Andolan. They had public meetings and also met the authorities and carried out signature campaigns to keep the movement going.

“I will not give up on the maidan till my last breath. I am ready to sit on a fast unto death. The younger generation have a right to playgrounds,” said Susheela Patil, the 102-year-old.

The case in the city civil court was filed by one Usman Gani in 1986 to challenge a demolition order against his six sheds on the ground in 1986. But, the sheds were demolished even though the case was pending in court.

A writ petition was then filed in the high court. The court then gave possession of part of the land on which these structures existed to the court receiver.

After that nothing changed till 2010 when the court discharged the court receiver and asked him to hand over the land to Gani and asked the civic body to take steps in accordance with the law to protect the ground.

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