Protesters evicted, Jantar Mantar falls silent

No longer home: Scenes at Jantar Mantar after the eviction drive by the authorities, following the NGT order, in the Capital on Monday.   | Photo Credit: V. Sudershan

At 7.30 a.m. on Monday, protesters at Jantar Mantar woke up to the sound of police vans and excavators, which had lined up to raze their makeshift set-ups and evict them, following orders by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Their four-week notice had come to an end on Sunday and the authorities wasted no time implementing the order.

Within a few hours, there were no sloganeering, loudspeakers or speeches to be heard. The street, which usually looked narrow with the crowd and temporary set-ups on both sides, suddenly seemed double the size. Just remains of what used to be lay on the road.

T. David Raj, a protester who has been at Jantar Mantar for the last one year to demand liquor ban in Tamil Nadu, said that the police and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) teams pulled down tents, dismantled stage, and removed posters.

“Most people were up and had either gone to freshen up or to get breakfast from the gurdwara or the temple. They were in no mood for reasoning with any of us,” he said.

Along with individual protesters, ex-servicemen, who have been demanding the implementation of the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme, were also forcibly removed.

“This is clearly an attempt to silence the voices in a democracy. If there is a court order stating that we cannot protest here, then give us an alternative site where we can. We will relocate there. But, you cannot drive us away and not provide us with an alternative,” said Major General (Retd.) Satbir Singh, who has been spearheading the OROP movement for the last two years now.

He said proper procedure should have been followed. However, he said that no one was hurt in the eviction drive and the teams did their duty peacefully.

Though the drive went on till 10 a.m., after which Jantar Mantar was completely emptied, by evening some protesters came back to their spots.

“I am here from Madhya Pradesh and I cannot just leave what I was fighting for the past three years and go back home,” said Yogesh Premchand Gawnekar.

North Corporation plea

Meanwhile, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation said that they will make an appeal to the green court to not finalise Ramlila Maidan as an alternative place for protests.

Director (Horticulture) of the North Corporation, Ranvir Singh, said that a status report will be presented before the NGT on Tuesday, telling them how the corporation’s financial condition will be severely hit if the ground is used for protests.

“Ramlila Maidan is a major source of revenue for us and converting it to a protest site will hit us because our financial condition is already bad. Though we are not a party in the case at the NGT, we will present our case before the Bench,” said Singh.

At present, booking the 12-acre Ramlila Maidan costs ₹50,000 for a day. The rates were revised in October 2015, before which the cost of renting it was ₹5,500 a day.

This financial year, till October, the North body has already earned ₹21 lakh from its rent. Apart from this, ₹7.5 lakh was also earned by renting out a portion of the ground for parking. Last financial year, the income generated was ₹27 lakh.

A senior North Corporation official said that apart from revenue loss, there are other problems which might arise if Ramlila Maidan is chosen as an alternative to Jantar Mantar.

“The area is highly congested and any major gathering will cause traffic hauls. The reason given by NGT of demonstrations causing noise pollution holds more ground here because there are three hospitals around the ground,” the official said.

NGT seeks report

The NGT, meanwhile, sought for a compliance report from the Delhi Police with regard to its order to stop all protests at Jantar Mantar.

A Bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar, directed the police to submit the report after the counsel told the green panel that the site had already been cleared and that all the temporary structures had also been removed from the road.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 3:16:56 PM |

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