Aarey Colony Protest: 29 Arrested; Court Refuses Stay On Cutting Of Trees
The drama over cutting of trees in part of Mumbai's Aarey Colony for a proposed metro car shed shifted from the corridors of the Bombay High Court to the prominent green lung over Friday night, resulting into clashes between protesters and police who have arrested 29 persons today.
Green activists suffered a second jolt in two consecutive days when the Bombay High Court on Saturday refused to stay ongoing felling of trees at Mumbai's prominent green lung, Aarey Colony, to make way for a proposed metro car shed.
Some protesters have accused police personnel of high-handed behaviour. However, Mumbai Police have denied these allegations. Those arrested, including six women, are among the 60 people who were detained by police earlier, a police official said, adding that some of them are students.
The entire Aarey Colony was cordoned off by police on morning after hundreds of green activists tried to stop felling of trees in the area by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. for the Metro-3 line rake depot.
The MMRCL action began hours after the high court dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and activists challenging the decision of Tree Authority of the Mumbai civic body to allow felling of trees.
Meanwhile, the police official said some protesters had beaten up the men in uniform on duty in Aarey Colony.
“We have arrested 29 protesters. Six of them are women. Some of them had manhandled and beaten the police personnel deployed in Aarey Colony and obstructed them from discharging their duty,” the official said.
On Friday night, around 200 people gathered and started protesting near Picnic Point in the colony, he said.
"While the protests were on, a group of people roughed up two police personnel, who sustained injuries," he said.
A case has been registered under sections 332 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code on complaint of a 28-year-old woman police constable who was injured in the alleged attack.
They have also been booked for violating Section 144 of CrPc (banning unlawful assembly) imposed in Aarey Colony and surrounding areas.
"All the arrested protesters were taken to court for remand," he said.
The official added the detained protesters were taken to Aarey, Vanrai and Dahisar police stations, where some of them are being released.
Meanwhile, one of the detained women alleged she and her aides were detained by police while they were protesting peacefully in the early hours of Saturday.
Some alleged that the women protesters were manhandled by male police officers who bundled them into police vans.
However, Mumbai Police spokesperson has refuted the allegation of high-handedness by police as "false".
"All due procedures and legally valid steps were taken while handling the situation," he said, adding that the situation is "peaceful" now.
NGT To Hear Plea On Oct. 10
Environment activists criticised the authorities, claiming that almost 200 trees have been cut so far. They alleged the metro corporation wants to finish the job before Oct. 10, when the matter comes before the National Green Tribunal.
"This matter is going to be heard by the NGT on Oct. 10, and we hope to get some respite from there. But it seems like the authorities want to eliminate the entire green patch before the hearing," Stalin D, one of the activists, said.
Shiv Sena Extends Support To Protestors
Meanwhile, Shiva Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, who is contesting the Oct. 21 assembly election from Worli, extended his support to the protesters.
"A project that should be executed with pride, the Metro 3, @MumbaiMetro3 has to do it in the cover of the night, with shame, slyness and heavy cop cover. The project supposed to get Mumbai clean air, is hacking down a forest with a leopard, rusty spotted cat and more," he tweeted.
Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon said cutting the trees was "a violation of the model code of conduct".
"The order was uploaded by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation only today, so it is deemed as an order today. They can't issue such orders when the code of conduct is in place," she told PTI.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar backed felling of trees at Aarey Colony in north Mumbai, saying as per the High Court ruling it is "not a forest area".
The greens (environmentalists) have failed," the Bombay High Court said on Friday while refusing to declare Aarey colony a forest and also declining to quash the BMC tree authority's decision allowing felling of over 2,600 trees in the green zone to set up a metro car-shed.
"The High Court has ruled yesterday that it is not a forest. You can't fell anything that is forest," he said at a press conference in Lucknow, stating that people had also protested felling of trees for Delhi Metro.
"There was a need to fell 20 to 25 trees for setting up the first metro station in Delhi and then also people had similarly opposed it. But for each tree that was cut five saplings were planted," he said.
Javadekar said the forest cover in the national capital has increased since then and public transport system has also improved.
"This is the mantra of 'vikas bhi, paryavaran ki suraksha bhi' (development with environment protection)," the BJP leader said.
On Saturday, police imposed section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Aarey Colony and surrounding areas, banning unlawful assembly, following strong protests by activists against the felling of trees in the green zone for a Metro car shed.