Aarey in lockdown as tree felling continues

Section 144 imposed; 23 men and six women arrested and sent to judicial custory; nearly 200 others detained through the day.

October 05, 2019 10:37 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 07:11 am IST - Mumbai

Up in arms: Police detaining activists who were staging a protest against the felling of trees at Aarey colony in Mumbai on Saturday.

Up in arms: Police detaining activists who were staging a protest against the felling of trees at Aarey colony in Mumbai on Saturday.

The cutting of trees at the Aarey forest continued through the night of October 4 and into October 5, even as activists and residents of Mumbai reacted with outrage over the government’s decision to start felling in the middle of the night, just hours after the High Court verdict.

The handling of the protests by police also came in for criticism with 29 persons arrested early in the morning and nearly 200 others detained through the day. Those detained on Saturday also included NCP leader and MLA Jitendra Awhad.

Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Pranaya Ashok confirmed that 23 men and six women were arrested in the early hours of Saturday. “The accused were arrested as they held a protest without prior permission and assaulted two constables, including a female constable,” Mr. Ashok said.

The arrested protesters were later remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.

Following the protests, police imposed Section 144 in and around Aarey till October 6 morning. Only residents of Aarey Milk Colony and those who could prove they had work in Aarey were allowed entry. There were police barriers at all entry points like Goregaon, Marol and Powai and public transport was diverted.

 

They have also applied for bail, and the application will be heard on October 7.

When lawyers informed the court that the arrested protesters included two students, set to appear for examinations, the court asked them to file bail applications with exam hall tickets and related documents. The court further said that they will be provided with police escorts so that they can appear for their exams.

‘Surgical strike’

As the felling of trees continued, Stalin Dayanand of the NGO Vanashakti, one of the petitioners against the government decision, called it a ‘surgical strike on Aarey’.

“We have confirmed information that around 1,800 trees were cut by 3 p.m. and they plan to clear the plot by Monday, when the courts reopen,” Mr. Dayanand said. Out of the 2,646 trees that are to be removed, 2,238 trees are slated to be cut and the rest are planned to be transplanted.

Senior officials from the State government said on condition of anonymity that a high level meeting with the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai and the Chief Secretary was held on Thursday to assess the situation ahead of Friday’s judgement.

On October 4 night, protesters poured into Aarey, numbering nearly 400 by 11 p.m.

The police then resorted to a lathi charge and detained around 150 persons initially. The detainees were taken to various police stations including Vanrai, Samta Nagar,Powai and Aarey.

MMRC Managing Director Ashwini Bhide at 11.25 p.m. on Friday tweeted saying, “A new false propoganda is in the air that 15 days notice is required after Tree Authority order getting uploaded on website. This is absolutely baseless. Tree Authority order is issued on 13th Sept 19. 15 days r over on 28th Sept. Action awaited till Hon HC verdict was out (sic).”

Saturday morning saw another spate of detentions of protesters who had arrived at the Goregaon check post.

The Hindu reached out to Ms Bhide and MMRC spokespersons. However all calls and text messages remained unanswered and there was no official statement except for Ms. Bhide’s tweets.

 

(With inputs from Sonam Saigal)

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