'No Illegal Structures Here': Shaheen Bagh Residents Question Bulldozer Politics

A demolition drive scheduled to raze encroachments in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh was halted amid protests.

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Hindi Female

"If these building are illegal, then Municipal Corporation of Delhi should have demolished these structures. Why did the MCD run away? Are they scared? Because they don't have papers. They don't know whether (the structures) are legal or illegal. There is nothing illegal here," 25-year-old Fazal Ahmed, a resident of Delhi's Shaheen Bagh, told The Quint.

After a demolition drive scheduled to raze illegal structures in Delhi's Shaheen Bagh on Monday, 9 May, was halted amid protests, residents questioned the motive behind the BJP-led civic body's 'anti-encroachment' operation in the area and asserted that there were no unlawful structures there.

While several called it the Bhatariya Janata Party-led MCD's "bulldozer politics" ahead of the civic body's polls, others accused the party of resorting to tactics to divert from the real issues.

A bulldozer that had arrived at Shaheen Bagh before noon, left around 1.30 pm, as protests over the drive continued. No demolitions were carried out.

Mohammed Zahir, who owns a shop on the road where the demolition drive was scheduled to be conducted, said that none of the residents know where the alleged illegal structures are:

"Everyone saw in the news in the morning that on 9 May, people from the MCD are coming to remove encroachments on this main road along with the police. Now, nobody knew where the encroachments were; as you can see the road is already empty. So everybody was coming to see where the encroachments were."

"Local politicians came and asked where the encroachments were, they talked to the people and said that they would remove them themselves. The name of Shaheen Bagh is so big that a lot of people came to see what was happening," he told The Quint.

Locals, AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan, and Congress workers had sat on the road and stood in the way of the bulldozers brought for razing the illegal settlements. Some local traders and others at the site had requested authorities to not use bulldozers, and had started removing some structures themselves.

"Some shop owners had put up a bamboo stick structure to install a board over their shop. When media and the bulldozer came, they removed it themselves only, thinking that someone may believe it to be an encroachment and raze it. Then rumour would have spread about demolition in Shaheen Bagh, and ruckus could have ensued," Zahir said.

No Prior Notices Were Served by MCD: Shop Owners

"We learnt about the (anti-encroachment drives), where and when they were going to happen, through the media. We had received no prior information or notice," Zahir told The Quint.

The same was reiterated by various other traders in the area.

Another shopkeeper from Shaheen Bagh, speaking to The Quint, criticised the 'bulldozer politics' of the BJP.

"No notice was served to anyone individually. This is symbolic politics by the BJP... 'bulldozer politics' which has come from MP and UP and has now reached Delhi. They just wanted to create media visuals of a bulldozer running through Shaheen Bagh, that only has happened today. The bulldozer came, stood here, and went."

"Encroachments should be removed. Everyone is in its favour, it gives everyone relief. But a proper procedure should be followed, and timing is important. When after small-scale riots in Jahangirpuri, they did bulldozer politics, it sends a message to the common public that politics of hatred is being played... The timing and the manner is wrong," he said.


What Had Happened?

A demolition drive scheduled for Monday at Shaheen Bagh was not conducted after protests broke out in the area. Shaheen Bagh was the epicentre of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests in 2019-20.

The MCD's operation came as part of the first phase of demolition drives in South Delhi had began on 4 May from the Karni Singh Shooting Range area in Tughlakabad, and will continue till 13 May, as per the civic body.

The drive on Monday was slated to cover the Shaheen Bagh main road, from Jasola Canal to Kalindi Kunj park. Even as the deployment of police and paramilitary forces in Shaheen Bagh had been stepped up ahead of the drive, the security proved inadequate on the ground as protesters showed up in large numbers.

On Thursday, a scheduled demolition drive in Shaheen Bagh was cancelled due to the non-availability of adequate police force, as per the SDMC.

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Topics:  Delhi   Demolition Drive   Shaheen Bagh 

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