Protests in Shaheen Bagh as Bulldozers Arrive for 'Anti-Encroachment Drive'

Shaheen Bagh was at the centre of the anti-CAA protests in late 2019 and early 2020.

Listen to this article:

New Delhi: The Shaheen Bagh area in Delhi, which was at the centre of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in late 2019 and early 2020, saw protests once again on Monday (May 9) – this time against the administration’s “anti-encroachment drive” in the neighbourhood.

Protesters raised slogans against the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) as well as the central government and demanded to stop the action.

“This is a one-sided probe. We are against the bulldozers being used against Muslim minds,” one protester told The Wire. “That’s what the BJP and local municipal corporation are doing.”

Aam Aadmi Party MLA from Okhla Amanatullah Khan and leaders of the Congress party have also reportedly joined the protest. “They are making this political, making it Hindu-Muslim,” Khan told The Wire. “The BJP has no platform for the MCD elections – that’s why they started with Jahangirpuri, and now they’re here.”

Khan also claimed that there are no illegal structures in the area, as those had already been removed at his behest.

“Our teams with bulldozers, trucks and police force have reached Shaheen Bagh to remove illegal encroachments there. Removal of encroachment is our obligatory function which we are carrying out,” SDMC’s Central Zone Chairman, Rajpal Singh told PTI.

Senior police officials were also present at the spot along with their personnel to provide security to SDMC officials carrying out the anti-encroachment drive in the area. The ten-day drive was originally scheduled to begin on Friday, but was postponed because there was not enough police security available.

The Supreme Court on Monday afternoon refused to hear a petition filed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) against the anti-encroachment drive. The court reportedly asked why the CPI(M), and not an affected party, was filing this petition, and went on to say that the court would not interfere in the matter, and the petitioners could go to the high court if they so desired.

Last month, Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta had written to the local mayor, demanding the removal of encroachment by “Rohingyas, Bangladeshis and anti-social elements”. The BJP’s so-called anti-encroachment drives in several parts of the country – including Delhi Jahangirpuri, which saw communal violence last month – have been criticised for selectively targeting Muslims.

On Monday too, Gupta stood by his claim, and claimed that AAP and the Congress were “supporting Rohingyas and Bangladeshis” by opposing the drive. “Today it’s proved that AAP and it’s MLAs are supporting Rohingyas and Bangladeshis. Those who are lying before bulldozers will be given a reply by the people. It’s unfortunate that AAP and Congress are opposing removal of encroachment in Shaheen Bagh. I urge AAP and Congress not to link encroachment with religion,” he said.

While Gupta claimed it was other parties who were linking encroachment to religion, he did not say anything about the allegations that is the BJP who is using these drives to selectively target Muslims.