Six protesters detained; residents say they will not give up their homes
High drama unfolded at the Campa Cola Compound in south Mumbai when the municipality made its first attempt to demolish 92 illegal flats in the complex on Tuesday morning.
Residents blocked the entrance and refused to allow civic officials to enter the premises. A face-off between the protesters and the police resulted in the detention of six people.
Around 200 police personnel were deployed at the spot in the morning. When nine BMC teams, each comprising 10 to 15 persons, and 200 labourers arrived at the gate, several residents huddled outside, banners in hand, blocking their way. Others stood inside shouting slogans. A posse of policemen dragged the protesters to a waiting police van. Those detained included BJP spokesperson and treasurer Shaina N.C. and councillor Makarand Narvekar. The police also tried in vain to break open the gate.
A team of officials later managed to gain access through the side gate and started an inspection of the building.
“Demolish Corruption, Not Homes” was the prevailing sentiment. “Why should I go? And where? We didn’t know the buildings were illegal when we bought our flats. We are ready to pay a fine to get the irregularities regularised,” said 60-year-old Kamal Parekh whose hunger strike has entered the ninth day.
35 illegal floors
The Campa Cola Compound is an upscale residential complex in Worli built in the 1980s which houses seven towers. According to municipal records, the builders had obtained permission for constructing five floors. However, over a period of time, 35 more floors were added.
The residents have been engaged in a legal tussle with the municipality since 2005 when they first went to court over non-supply of water. The civic body, in its defence, said that the structures were illegal. However, it did not take action against the builders, but served demolition notices. The case dragged on until the Supreme Court ordered the residents to vacate the buildings before Monday, November 11. On Tuesday, the civic body cut water, gas and electricity supply to about 20 flats that were vacated.
“We are acting on the Supreme Court’s order,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner M.M. Adtani. “If we hadn’t initiated the proceedings, we would have been in contempt of court.”
The high-profile case has drawn support from all major political parties, including the Shiv Sena which heads the municipal corporation in Mumbai. The Sena even urged Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to issue an ordinance to save the structures, but he refused. Among those who have pledged their support to residents are BJP MLAs Mangal Prabhat Lodha and Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Congress MP Milind Deora, Congress MLA Amin Patel, Shiv Sena’s spokesperson Rahul Narvekar and Yuva Sena’s president Aditya Thackeray.
The civic staff left at 5.30 p.m. “We will continue the process on Wednesday. We are also in the process of registering FIRs against those who stopped our staff from carrying out their duty,” said Mr. Adtani.