Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gate breached but residents win a breather

AFTER TEARS, SC BRINGS CAMPA CHEER: Wednesday morning’s pitched battles with police and civic officials (left) made way for celebrations by afternoon (above) after the Supreme Court stayed the demolition of illegal flats in Campa Cola till May next year

SC Order Brings Two-Day Demolition Drive To A Dramatic End, Court To Hear AG’s Alternative Accommodation Proposal

Linah Baliga | TNN

    Emotions bubbled over on Wednesday after the Supreme Court stayed the demolition of 96 illegal flats across seven buildings in the controversial Campa Cola society in Worli until May 31, 2014. The announcement came minutes after civic bulldozers brought down a gate of the society and changed the mood of residents from despair to relief within the span of an hour. 

    When demolition squads reached the spot at 9.30am on Wednesday, residents used Tuesday’s strategy of blocking the gate with cars and forming human chains as they prepared to battle the authorities. Around 10.30am, a bulldozer was moved over the front gate of BY Apartment and police managed to enter with BMC officials. They instructed residents to move their cars and a brief lathi charge ensued as members resisted. Residents complained some people, including women, were injured in the melee. They said the society’s core committee members were called by the BMC to discuss the agenda for the day. “Couldn’t the cops have waited for 15 minutes for our people to return? We were willing to co-operate. How did male cops touch women?” said Sunanda Varma, a resident of Midtown.
    However, DCP (zone 3) Vinayak Deshmukh said, “We have registered a case against 30-40 residents of Campa Cola for obstructing policemen who were performing their duty. We went to the compound in the morning and were trying to clear the space for implementation of the SC order. It was after they tried to create obstacles that we were compelled to use force.”
    Residents living on the sanctioned floors planned to file a complaint against the BMC for breaking down their gate and said they would approach human rights’ bodies against the cops. Shiv Sena member Rahul Narwekar advised them to do so, saying the gate also protected the private property of lawful residents.
    Just then at 11.40am, core committee member Ajay Mehta learnt that in New Delhi, Fali Nariman, Supreme Court senior counsel had suo moto moved the apex court headed by Justice G S Singhvi. The news of the SC granting suspension of the BMC demolition of the 96 flats till May 31, 2014, was received with a mix of tears and cheers. Slum dwellers from the neighbourhood arrived with drums and residents waved the tricolour and burst firecrackers.
    “This is half the battle won. It’s not over till it is really over. But this moment calls for champagne,” said a resident. A slum dweller who joined the celebrations said, “A house is a house, be it a hut or a posh flat. It is built with hard-earned money.”
    Before the order arrived, the BMC had disconnected the electricity of a sixth floor flat in BY Apartments besides allegedly dismantling the door of an apartment and disconnecting water supply.
    “The SC order was not expected at all. We were also surprised. No hearing was scheduled for 
today. Electricity was disconnected for 22 flats in BY Apartments, a gas and water connection was also removed,” said Mohan Adtani, additional municipal commissioner. This is the second time demolition plans for Campa Cola were abandoned. Earlier on May 2, the SC had ordered a stay of five months.
    (With inputs from Mateen Hafeez)

The Times of India, November 14, 2013

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