Mumbai tree felling protests: 29 in custody for 14 days

Mumbai Police erected road blocks at the entry points to Aarey Colony in Marol-Maroshi, Powai and Goregaon suburbs of north-west Mumbai.

Mumbai, Oct 5 : After a huge ruckus by environmentalists protesting tree cutting inside the Aarey Colony, police arrested 29 activists including 6 women who have been sent to custody for 14 days, an official said here on Saturday.

Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray said that he would deal with the matter (of tree felling) in the best possible manner after the next government would come to power.

“We shall deal with the murderers of Aarey Colony forests, if required even amend the law for it,” Thackeray said briefly during a media conference.

Earlier on Saturday, after huge protests the police clamped prohibitory orders in Aarey Colony and detained round 75 activists who were protesting against the cutting of trees since Friday night. Later, 29 were arrested and slapped with charges of unlawful assembly and obstructing government officials from duties.

The protests were to oppose the felling of around 2,646 trees and the activists claimed that more than 1000 trees have already been cut off.

The opposition intensified its protest after the Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed all petitions regarding the felling of the trees by Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (MMRCL) in the green zone to construct a car-shed for the Metro-3 project.

A division bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Bharati Dongre also declined to declare Aarey Colony as ‘forest’ or quash the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Tree Authority’s decision permitting the razing of the trees in the green zone for the metro project.

The judges noted that the carbon dioxide sequestration of 2,702 trees for their entire lifetime calculated at 12,79,062 kg would be compensated in 3,948 fully-loaded trips of the metro trains, while dismissing petitions filed by activist Zoru Bhathena and Shiv Sena corporator Yashwant K. Jadhav.

Jadhav was also ordered to pay a fine of Rs 50,000 for his petition against the approval granted by the BMC Tree Authority of which he is a member, while Bhathena is moving the Supreme Court in the matter.

Among those whisked off was Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, while Aditya Thackeray condemned the tree felling taken up since late Friday night.

“A project that should be executed with pride, the Metro-3, has to do it in the cover of the night, with shame, slyness and heavy cop cover. The project supported to get Mumbai clean air, is hacking down a forest with a leopard, rusty spotted cat and more,” Aditya Thackeray tweeted.

Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant, slamming the Shiv Sena, tweeted in Marathi: “This is the time @ShivSena. You are in the government, you can stop this. The Mahayuti (mega alliance) is more important or the mega loss of trees?”

On Saturday, Justice S. Dharmadhikari and Justice A. K. Menon rejected a plea by way of a praecipe seeking to stay the ongoing tree-felling till the petitioners could move the Supreme Court for further reliefs.

Mumbai Police erected road blocks at the entry points to Aarey Colony in Marol-Maroshi, Powai and Goregaon suburbs of north-west Mumbai.

Aam Aadmi Party national joint-secretary Ruben Mascarenhas said that many people including himself were detained and later released. But many tribal women are still detained at different police stations, he said.

Defending itself, MMRCL Managing Director Ashwani Bhide said that “a new false propaganda is in the air that 15 days notice is required after Tree Authority order getting uploaded on website”.

“This is absolutely baseless. The Tree Authority order was issued on September 13, 2019, 15 days are over on September 28. Action awaited till the high court verdict was out. HC has dismissed four petitions and has also imposed fine of Rs 50,000 for a frivolous petition,” she tweeted.

On its part, Mumbai Police Spokesperson Pranaya Ashok denied allegations of high-handedness during the security operations in Aarey Colony on Saturday.

“All due procedures and legally valid steps were taken while handling the situation which is peaceful and legal procedures are being followed,” he said.

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