BMC demolishes slum in Powai amidst stone-pelting, lathi charge | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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BMC demolishes slum in Powai amidst stone-pelting, lathi charge

Jun 07, 2024 07:04 AM IST

Many of the families residing in the neighbourhood said they had been shifted there by the Hiranandani group as they were working for the company

Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Thursday demolished over 600 tenements in Powai’s Jai Bhim Nagar neighbourhood in a bid to clear encroachments from a plot under legal dispute till last month. Residents of the tenements, however, refused to vacate the premises and pelted stones at the BMC officials and police, prompting a lathi-charge.

Around 20 policemen, 10 BMC workers and several slum dwellers were injured in the incident, while 20 residents were detained from the spot by police for indulging in violence. An FIR was also registered against the 200-strong mob that allegedly attacked officials and police. (Hindustan Times)
Around 20 policemen, 10 BMC workers and several slum dwellers were injured in the incident, while 20 residents were detained from the spot by police for indulging in violence. An FIR was also registered against the 200-strong mob that allegedly attacked officials and police. (Hindustan Times)

Around 20 policemen, 10 BMC workers and several slum dwellers were injured in the incident, while 20 residents were detained from the spot by police for indulging in violence. An FIR was also registered against the 200-strong mob that allegedly attacked officials and police.

Municipal commissioner Bhushan Gagrani, who visited the spot after the fracas settled down in the afternoon, said “I’m only here because BMC workers and the police have been hit.”

The plot in question was embroiled in a legal dispute till recently, said officials. “The land belongs to the state government. It was given to the Hiranandani group for housing a labour camp between 2009 and 2013. But the company claimed thereafter that the land was theirs and the residents continued living there,” said a civic official present at the site. The State Human Rights Commission too had directed the civic body to take action against the huts, he added.

Many of the families residing in the neighbourhood said they had been shifted there by the Hiranandani group as they were working for the company. Slum dwellers from other areas also shifted there gradually, after their homes were demolished.

The BMC, meanwhile, approached the Bombay high court seeking a resolution. Last month, the court ruled in favour of the civic body, but demolitions could not be carried out as the model code of conduct was in place. “We were waiting for the code of conduct to get over so we could finish the demolition before the monsoon,” said the BMC official.

On June 1, the civic body served a notice to residents warning them of the impending demolition. A board displaying the notice was also erected in the neighbourhood, but it was taken down by residents.

Sharad Gaikwad, a local activist, said after the notice was served, they approached the assistant commissioner of the ward asking for a few days’ time so they could approach the court and seek a stay on the demolition. “But our pleas were turned down despite repeated request,” he said.

Some residents said they had planned to shift after getting the notice but did not have the opportunity to do so. “We thought we would shift to another place after the notice was served but could not do so as I did not get any leave from work,” said Rinku Vishwakarma, who works as a domestic help in a few apartments in Powai. She moved into Jai Bhim Nagar after her marriage in 2000 as her husband was working with the Hiranandani group as a carpenter and was accommodated at the site. Her three children were born in the neighbourhood, she said – two of them were ready to work while the third was in college. “My husband was at home, drunk, when the police came and thrashed him without saying anything. Even I was hit by a lathi,” said Vishwakarma.

Other residents echoed her, sitting amidst piles of rubble, with their belongings such as bags, utensils, televisions, fans, and gas cylinders scattered around the area.

“We refused to leave, so the police came into our house, dragged us and rained lathis on us,” said Pooja Zagle, who was injured on her head during the lathi-charge. She visited a private hospital where she was instructed to get the wound stitched, she said.

But the police claimed that residents began pelting stones at them as soon as they reached the spot. “The stone pelting went on for 30 minutes before around 500 additional personnel from the SRPF, Rapid Action Force and Quick Response Team reached the spot and brought things under control,” said Mangesh Shinde, deputy commissioner of police (zone 10). Most policemen were injured on their head, ears and limbs due to the stone-pelting, while an assistant police commissioner twisted his ankle. The injured policemen were treated at the Hiranandani Hospital, said Shinde.

The deputy commissioner further said that around 200 people who were part of the stone-pelting mob had been booked sections 141 (unlawful assembly), 146 (rioting), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. “We are in the process of booking the accused and identifying more people who were part of the mob,” said Shinde.

Meanwhile, several residents claimed the Hiranandani group had promised to shift them to Mahatma Phule Nagar, another slum settlement, around six months ago. “But those were just promises. Nothing was done to address our situation,” said Ashok Yadav, a rickshaw driver, who was waiting beside the plot with his 18-month-old grandson as other family members loaded their belongings in his rickshaw. “We will now go to my sister’s house,” he said.

Gaikwad said Asha Chaule, the leader of the slum, had promised she was fighting for the residents and even taken some money from a few of them. “But she is missing now, nowhere to be seen,” he said.

Requests for comment from the Hiranandani group did not elicit any response.

(With inputs from Megha Sood)

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