Drama Over Bulldozers
Drama Over Bulldozers: The demolition drive was stopped after a protest by residents and intervention by Okhla MLA, Aam Aadmi Party’s Amanatullah Khan
New Delhi: Bulldozers today rolled into Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, the heart of citizenship law protests, for an anti-encroachment drive that was halted when traders and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA Amanatullah Khan assured that illegal structures would be removed.
Here are 10 points in this big story:
- The drive-by in south Delhi’s BJP-controlled civic body started amid heavy police presence today as residents gathered to protest an exercise that critics allege targets one community.
- As a bulldozer arrived at a busy market around 10.15 am, supporters of the Congress sat in front of the machine in protest, blocking its way. Soon, AAP’s Okhla MLA Amanatullah Khan arrived at the spot. Mr. Khan said he had got all illegal structures removed already and none were left.
- “There are no illegal structures here. They have brought the bulldozer and put it here to show that I am obstructing their work to remove the encroachment,” Mr. Khan told NDTV.
- The bulldozer was about to remove a scaffolding set up for the painting of a building when Mr. Khan intervened. He spoke to representatives of the local market association in the presence of police and had a temporary structure removed. The bulldozer returned soon after.
- Earlier, Rajpal, a senior functionary of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, had told news agency ANI that the “municipality will do its work”. “Our workers and officials are ready, teams and bulldozers have been organized. Encroachments will be removed wherever they are,” he had said. South Delhi mayor Mukesh Suryan had told the ANI people of Delhi to support this drive.
- Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta had written to the civic body’s mayor last month, demanding the removal of encroachment by “Rohingya, Bangladeshis and anti-social elements”.
- Shaheen Bagh famously became the epicenter of the nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in 2019-2020. Activists and opposition parties allege that the anti-encroachment drive is aimed at targeting a community, days after a similar exercise in north Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, where a communal clash broke out during a Hanuman Jayanti procession.
- The April 20 exercise at Jahangirpuri had thrown up heart-rending visuals of people begging authorities to stop as bulldozers razed homes and shops. Structures near a mosque, which was at the center of the Hanuman Jayanti clash, were also razed.
- The drive continued despite the Supreme Court pausing it and the court had to intervene again. The Supreme Court is hearing petitions challenging the “anti-encroachment” drives in areas including Shaheen Bagh.
- While Raja Iqbal Singh, mayor of North Delhi Municipal Corporation, had termed the drive-in Jahangirpuri a “routine exercise”, the timing, especially since it came right after the BJP’s chief letter, prompted questions on political motives.