Shaheen Bagh: High Tension Over Bulldozers

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.

The drive by south Delhi’s BJP-controlled civic body started amid heavy police presence today as local 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 on 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 encroachment,” Mr Khan told.

People Panic

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 organised. Encroachments will be removed wherever they are,” he had said. South Delhi mayor Mukesh Suryan had told ANI people of Delhi support this drive.

High Tension Prevails Over Bulldozers in Shaheen Bagh
High Tension Prevails Over Bulldozers in Shaheen Bagh

Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta had written to the civic body’s mayor last month, demanding removal of encroachment by “Rohingya, Bangladeshis and anti-social elements”.

Shaheen Bagh famously became the epicentre 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.

Jahangirpuri

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 centre 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.


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