SC stays demolition drive in violence-hit Delhi's Jahangirpuri

Wednesday, 20 April 2022 (12:04 IST)
New Delhi: Over an hour after a major anti-encroachment demolition drive was taken up by the civic body in northwest Delhi's Jahangirpuri on Wednesday, the Supreme Court ordered status quo and stayed the North Delhi Municipal Corporation action.

The special joint encroachment removal programme in Jahangirpuri has been planned for Wednesday and Thursday where clashes broke out during a Hanuman Jayanti procession on April 16.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana said status quo be maintained in the case. The matter be listed before the appropriate bench tomorrow (Thursday), the bench added.

Amid rising mercury in the national capital a nearly 1000-metre stretch in violence-hit Jahangirpuri saw JCBs crumbling down structures as heavy police presence maintained peace in the areas.

Special CP Devendra Pathak took stock of the situation and huddled with civic officials, including Mayor Raja Iqbal Singh once the top court stay was reported by the media.

Congress leader and senior advocate Kapil Sibal moved the plea seeking stay on the demolition drive.

Civic officials went on backfoot at the scene as they refused to term the ongoing action earlier as a "demolition drive", saying it is a routine anti-encroachment exercise and nothing more".

As this was a declared action since last night after media reports surfaced "about Committee action", which are though regular are usually surprise drives.

Hours ahead of the action, a letter issued by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation said that an encroachment removal drive will be carried out on illegal construction in the area for two days -- April 20 and 21.

The civic body-ruled by the BJP in fact requested Delhi Police a 400-strong platoon to handle law and order situation, after Crime Branch officials on Monday were faced with a stone pelting situation while carrying out a spot probe after the April 16 communal violence that left several injured, including policemen of whom an SI received gunshot wounds.

The bulldozing action is being seen as similar as in several other states that had seen alleged communal clashes starting Ram Navami.

The Delhi civic body measure in Block C of Jahangirpuri comes days after violence broke out in Jahangirpuri during a Hanuman Jayanti procession, North Delhi Mayor Raja Iqbal Singh told the media informing the punitive action will begin at 10 am and alongside police, paramilitary troopers are also deployed.

Most of the stretch that will see the action have seen overnight attempt by dwellers in the area trying to clean up their own mess. Most of them are scrap dealers or people who buy staff from wholesellers and sell them as hawkers on small-built stalls.

A resident in the area said this is nothing new but the violence definitely was. "We have always lived in harmony in this areas for generations. This is a one-off incident planned and put in action by mischief mongers with ulterior motives," he said.

The Assistant Commissioner, Civil Lines Zone of North MCD, in the letter, has requested 400 police personnel, “including lady police/outer force for maintaining law and order during the encroachment removal action on April 20 and 21”.

Pathak told the media "adequate force is in place" as RAF Vajra vahan, paramilitary troopers and Delhi Police personnel swooped down on the area camping in large numbers. In just an hour a large area -- consisting of structures on pavement, juice and drinks stalls, area surrounding mosque saw JCBs bring down alleged illegal constructions, as women pleaded with police and civic officials to stop.

The BJP-controlled North Delhi Municipal Corporation on Tuesday wrote to the North West DCP demanding security for the anti-encroachment drive on Wednesday and Thursday.

Permission was also sought for Tuesday but the police did not make personnel available, said the North MCD Mayor as Kushal Chowk, Block C and D on Wednesday turned into a police camp.

"Notorius elements mostly bad boys of the areas, alleged rioters will be at the receiving end of the MCD action," the mayor added.

Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta wrote to the North MCD Mayor, demanding identification and demolition of “illegal encroachment” and construction by those arrested in the Jahangirpuri violence.

“As you are aware, on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti, there was a shobha yatra taken out in Jahangirpuri. Some anti-social elements and rioters pelted stones on it,” he said in a letter which was also addressed to the North MCD Commissioner.

“These anti-social elements and rioters have the support of local AAP MLA and councillor and as a result these people have done large-scale encroachment,” he alleged.

“Therefore, illegal encroachment done by these rioters should be identified and there should be bulldozers run over it.” "The special joint encroachment removal action programme comprising PWD, local body, Police, and the Works/Maintenance Department, Health Department, Sanitation Department, Veterinary Department and Enforcement Cell of North DMC is to be fixed in Jahangirpuri area," the letter said.

This is the maximum deployment of forces that the area will see during the "routine" anti-encroachment action. Clashes broke out on Saturday between two communities during the Hanuman Jayanti procession at Jahangirpuri, leaving eight police personnel and a local resident injured. Stone-pelting and arson during the clashes left several vehicles torched.

The ruling Aam Aadmi Party and opposition BJP have been engaged in blame game ever since the violence.

Till Tuesday the area was heavily encroached, but as of Wednesday much of the materials were removed by people themselves. (UNI)

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