Protests erupt as bulldozers roll into Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, return without action

Protests erupted in Shaheen Bagh on Monday with hundreds of people, including women, opposing the SDMC’s anti-encroachment drive as bulldozers rolled into the area in the presence of heavy police personnel.

Following the protest, the SDMC officials, who were part of the anti-encroachment drive, returned with bulldozers without conducting the exercise, an official said.

Protesters raised slogans against the BJP-ruled South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) as well as the central government and demanded that the action should be stopped. Some women protestors also stood in front of bulldozers to prevent the exercise.

Earlier in the day, leaders from the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress also reached the spot and staged dharna.

The protest also caused heavy traffic snarls in Shaheen Bagh, Kalindi Kunj, Jaitpur, Sarita Vihar and Mathura Road among other areas.

SDMC’s Central Zone Chairman Rajpal Singh told PTI that the illegal structures could not be removed due to protests.

In December 2019, Shaheen Bagh was the centre of protests and sit-ins against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The sit-in was called off in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic had struck the city.

Last month, an anti-encroachment drive conducted by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation in Jahangirpuri area, which witnessed violence between two communities on April 16, drew widespread criticism. The Supreme Court had to intervene to stop the action there.

Singh said that removing encroachment from any area is our obligatory function which the civic body is doing.

“Protests being held are politically-motivated. We will do whatever we have to remove encroachment. Our bulldozers and trucks are still there (in Shaheen Bagh),”.

Senior police officials were also present at the spot along with their personnel to provide security to SDMC officials to carry out the anti-encroachment drive in the area.

“Police personnel have been deployed at the spot where the anti-encroachment drive is being carried out. This is being done to ensure that the concerned civic bodies can carry out their work without any hassle and with all safety,” a senior police official said.

Paramilitary forces were also deployed to manage the situation, officials said. As South MCD officials with bulldozers reached Shaheen Bagh, some locals started removing their “illegal structures”.

Akbar, 40-year-old shopkeeper at Kalindi Kunj main road in Shaheen Bagh, said, “Bulldozers had come in the morning around 11:30 to this area, but they left as there were no such encroachments here. People were told and they removed their carts. There was nothing to be removed. Bulldozers left without doing anything.”

Delhi Congress leaders, including party’s media cell vice chairman Parvez Alam, were among those detained by the police.

Delhi BJP Chief Adesh Gupta criticised the Congress and AAP for “opposing anti encroachment drive” in Shaheen Bagh.

“Today it’s proved that AAP and its MLAs are supporting Rohingyas and Bangladeshis. Those who are lying before bulldozers will be given a reply by the people. It’s unfortunate that AAP and Congress are opposing removal of encroachment in Shaheen Bagh. I urge AAP and Congress not to link encroachment with religion,” he said.

The plan for the anti-encroachment drive comes after Gupta wrote to the mayors of South and East corporations on April 20 seeking “the removal of encroachments by Rohingyas, Bangladeshis and anti-social elements” in their areas.

Last month, a drive was planned in Okhla and Jasola but it could not be executed due to unavailability of police force, said SDMC’s Central Zone Chairman Singh.
On May 10, the anti-encroachment drive will be conducted near Gurudwara Road near New Friends Colony while on May 11, it will be conducted in Meharchand Market, Lodhi Colony near Sai Baba Mandir and near JLN Metro station, he said.