The municipal staff and police personnel had arrived at the Campa Cola compound around 10 a.m. on Wednesday to continue the demolition process they were forced to abandon the day before.
Once again, the squad met with stiff resistance from residents. The police dragged the protesters and put them in vans. The gate was bulldozed. The staff jumped over cars that were parked to obstruct movement and entered the premises.
Just as the tense and angry standoff threatened to turn uglier came the Supreme Court order. And celebrations broke out.
Rekha Parekh (57) said that she was scared when she saw the police enter from her 14th floor apartment. “We had already shifted out our furniture in anticipation of the demolition. I saw the police jump over cars and enter the premises,” she said. Two of her sons living in London kept calling her to enquire if she was alright.
“I was standing at the gate with the crowd and the police dragged us out,” said 40-year-old Rupali Sinha. “After the gate was broken down, they should have at least given us time to move away.” She said her aunt who had come from Andheri to support them was injured in the process.
“The order should send out a strong message to the State government and the municipality, which should have provided respite to the residents sooner,” said Congress MP Milind Deora. He reached the residential complex just when the court order was announced. He said the Chief Minister should have “done something earlier.”
Many residents own multiple flats in the building. Several were bought as investment.
Eighty-two-year-old Vinod Kothari was among the first to move into the complex. He formed the Campa Cola Association.
“The buildings did not have an Occupation Certificate when we moved in. We didn’t have water connection either. But we were assured that our buildings would be regularised.”
Mr. Kothari and his brothers own seven flats in the Campa Cola compound. His was the only one that faced demolition.
Those involved with the construction said the residents were aware of the violations. It was easy to keep track of the legality of a property when one registered it. Intimation of Disapproval, Commencement Certificate and legal documents on ownership of land and building were given to them. “At the time the residents purchased the property, the prevailing price in the area was Rs 1000-1200 per sq. ft. They bought the flats for Rs. 600-800 a sq. ft.,” said Jayant Tipnis, a former architect of the Campa Cola buildings.
Questions are being raised about the selective treatment meted out to Campa Cola residents. Simpreet Singh from the National Alliance of People’s Movement said the same sensitivity should be shown to the poor as well.