Listen to this article:
Bhopal: Mahesh Katare Sugam, a well-known poet from Madhya Pradesh, was issued a notice by the Bina Municipal Council (BMC) warning him that his house would be demolished because it is “illegally constructed” and he did not possess the relevant documents.
Katare had moved to the Madhur colony with his wife and son in 2011. The area falls under the Chandrashekhar ward of the BMC in the Sagar district.
The house is in the name of his wife, Meera Katre. However, the notice was issued in the name of his son, Prabhat Katare (40).
The notice alleged that the house was built illegally and without permission, which is a violation of section 187(8) of the MP Municipality Act, 1962 and is a punishable offence. It also demanded that Katare produce relevant documents pertaining to his residence.
अब कविता पर बुलडोजर!
मध्य प्रदेश के कवि लेखक इन दिनों भारी आक्रोश में हैं।
लोकप्रिय कवि महेश कटारे सुगम के मकान को तोड़ने का नोटिस नगर पालिका बीना मप्र द्वारा दिया गया है। मकान का नक्शा पास है और हाउस टैक्स जमा होता है।
सुगम जनता की आवाज उठाने वाले कवि हैं।
बहुत पैना लिखते हैं। pic.twitter.com/HRZ4EJAQcd
— Shakeel Akhtar (@shakeelNBT) August 7, 2022
Mahesh Katare told The Wire over the phone, “Even though the home is registered under Prabhat’s mother Meera Katre’s name, my son Prabhat Katare’s name was used to serve the notice. The building layout was approved by the corporation on March 26, 2011, and I have obtained the necessary building permits. Additionally, since then, I have been paying house taxes.”
He said he has the documents to back this up.
When asked why he was served notice, Katare said, “A majority of homes in Madhur colony are illegal, but the notice was served only to me. I have protested against the lack of basic utilities, including roads, water supply, power and a suitable drainage system, in the colony since my house was built here in 2011.”
This comes against the backdrop of several similar incidents reported in Madhya Pradesh where homes and properties of the people accused in communal clashes were razed. Several BJP-ruled governments have adopted similar measures against protesters and dissidents.
Constitutional scholar Gautam Bhatia has suggested that “bulldozer justice” is an evolving pattern of collective punishment by the state as part of the doctrine of an “unconstitutional state of affairs”.
Interestingly, Katare, who is a recipient of several awards including the Hindi Academy Award, is known for his poems against the establishment, and for raising local and national issues. He writes in Hindi and Bundeli.
To drum up public support, he wrote poems like ‘Nagar Palika So Rahi Bhaiya, Bina Nagri Ro Rahi Bhaiya‘ [The municipal council is missing, the residents of Bina are weeping] and recited them on public platforms. “It may have not gone well with the officials,” he said.
Katare with the help of his son, Prabhat, who runs a pathology lab, had also lodged several complaints on the chief minister’s helpline and with the local officials.
However, he alleged that an officer of the Municipal Council had visited the colony weeks ago, urging him to withdraw the helpline complaint. And in return, the officer had alleged that they will try to fix all the prevailing issues of the colony.
“I received this notice days after I withdrew the complaint,” Katare said.
Surekha Jatav, chief medical officer of Bina Municipal Council, refused to comment on the issue, saying he is not aware of the matter.
But Satyam Devaliya, sub-engineer of Bina Municipal Council, said, “Dozens of people who have constructed homes illegally have been served notice in the last two weeks in Bina town. Katare is one of them. The colony is an illegal one.”
When asked why the poet was served notice when he has all the relevant documents, he said, “No action would be taken against him if he has relevant documents.”
Devaliya countered the allegation of targeting the poet saying, “It is a routine work, there no conspiracy behind it.”
Opposing the home demolition notice of Katare, joint secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha Badal Saroj expressed displeasure over the incident. In a statement, it said, “He [Katare] is a voice of resistance in the region and the tallest contemporary poet of Bundeli language. It seems that the ruling government wants to silent him, and, [therefore,] threatened with the home demolition notice. But poet fears no one and the poet fraternity will oppose it.”
Despite repeated attempts, Sagar district collector Deepak Arya did not respond to the calls.
(With inputs from Kashif Kakvi)