New Delhi: After demolition drives by governments in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and a municipal corporation in Delhi, many other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states are revving up their bulldozers to raze allegedly illegal structures and encroachments.
A day after the BJP-ruled North Delhi Municipal Corporation went on a demolition spree in Jahangirpuri, the Gujarat government’s bulldozer also came down heavily Thursday.
Karnataka, another BJP-ruled state, has also vowed to use bulldozers against rioters and illegal constructions, while anti-encroachment drives are already on in Uttarakhand.
The Surat Municipal Corporation together with police Thursday demolished properties belonging to alleged gangster brothers Aarif and Sajju Kothari.
Speaking to ThePrint, Sharad Singhal, additional commissioner of police (crime and traffic) said the police had received a request from the corporation for protection.
“We got a request from Surat Municipal Corporation that both the brothers had encroached on government land. An FIR under the Land Grabbing Act was also lodged. Sajju is already jailed and we are trying to nab his brother. Surat corporation had sought police protection as they undertook the demolition action. They had constructed two-three floors illegally, and the brother was also running a gambling den,” he said.
According to sources, the police have also attached the properties of Aarif Kothari. “Action against Sajju Kothari’s illegal properties took place 15 days back, and against Aarif Kothari Thursday,” said a source.
Opposition leaders claim that the BJP is using bulldozers as a political tool. Speaking to ThePrint, Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said, “If these were illegal constructions and encroachments, then why did they take so long to take action? Who was giving them protection? This is something that the BJP needs to address.”
“This is a deliberate move to shift attention from important issues where the party has been failing continuously. It always indulges in polarisation. If there are anti-social elements, then who is giving them protection? Please take all action legally but also fix responsibility as to who allowed this to come up in the first place,” he added.
BJP leaders maintained that there was no politics behind the move. “These are administrative matters, and as political leaders we have nothing to do with it. These are matters related to law and order,” said Gujarat BJP spokesperson Yamal Vyas.
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From UP to Karnataka
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had earned the moniker ‘Bulldozer Baba’ due to his references to his government deploying bulldozers to raze the properties of alleged criminals and mafias in Uttar Pradesh.
Last year, his government announced that it had, over four years, seized and destroyed property worth Rs 1,000 crore belonging to various gangsters, including Mukhtar Ansari.
Taking a cue from this, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan began to implement a version of Adityanath’s model in his state, which earned him the sobriquet of ‘Bulldozer Mama’.
A major controversy broke out in the national capital after the BJP-led Municipal Corporation undertook an anti-encroachment drive in riot-hit Jahangirpuri Wednesday. The move came after Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta wrote to North Delhi Mayor Raja Iqbal Singh, asking him to identify “illegal encroachments” and constructions by those arrested after communal violence broke out in Jahangirpuri during a Hanuman Jayanti rally on 16 April, leaving eight police personnel and a local resident injured.
In Karnataka too, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra last week had indicated that the government was planning to take strict action against those involved in riots, and had promised to take up the matter with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. Soon after this, Pratap Simha, a BJP MP, while speaking to reporters said that anyone found indulging in stone-pelting should “expect bulldozers on their doorstep”.
“We are thinking about it. The chief minister, too, has said there is thinking on those lines. We will have to take strong action against those involved in riots,” Jnanendra said when asked to respond to the use of bulldozers in areas of Delhi against those allegedly indulged in rioting.
Drive in Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand has also begun demolition drives, with more coming up.“Wherever encroachment is found, bulldozers will be used. The process of removing illegal occupants is completely legal. Till now, bulldozers have been used in three places — Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar and Haldwani,” Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said Thursday.
Urban local administrations in the state are busy creating a database of government land encroached by the mafia. However, anti-encroachment drives have already taken place in Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar districts, where authorities have bulldozed allegedly illegal constructions.
The Haridwar-Roorkee Development Authority (HRDA) began its anti-encroachment drive in the second week of April. This included the sealing of five allegedly unauthorised colonies in Haridwar’s Suman Nagar area. Although the buildings in these colonies are yet to be brought down, HRDA authorities bulldozed other constructions in the area.
Haridwar district magistrate Vinay Shankar Pandey told ThePrint, “There will be no let-UP in bulldozing unauthorised constructions and encroachments. The process of collecting data as to such constructions is still on.”
The Udham Singh Nagar district administration has also started removing allegedly unauthorised constructions in the towns of Sitarganj and Khatima. A large number of such constructions along Jail Camp Road in Sitarganj were removed Wednesday by sub-divisional magistrate Tushar Saini and his team on the district magistrate’s instructions.
A similar drive was carried out in Khatima, with many temporary as well as permanent constructions bulldozed in a joint operation by the local police, municipal and revenue officials along National Highway 125 Thursday.
With inputs from Prithviraj Singh
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)
Also read: ‘No one listened’: Jahangirpuri residents cry after bulldozers raze ‘illegal’ shops & structures