Civic authorities on Thursday carried out anti-encroachment drives in various parts of Delhi that sparked violent protests in the Madanpur Khadar area where the locals claimed that legal structures were bulldozed.
According to the police, the locals in southeast Delhi's Madanpur Khadar tried to stop the bulldozers and pelted stones at security personnel but were chased away. AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan, who was a part of a protest in Madanpur Khadar, has been detained along with others, police officials said.
Khan, however, alleged that the Delhi Police has arrested him. "Delhi Police has arrested me. Can imprison me, not my spirits," he tweeted in Hindi. While the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) carried out the drive in Madanpur Khadar and Dhirsen Marg, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) took action in Rohini and Karol Bagh.
Delhi's three municipal corporations — South, East and North — are ruled by the BJP. As bulldozers, surrounded by SDMC officials and the police, rolled into Kanchan Kunj in Madanpur Khadar to raze alleged illegal structures, locals, including women, gathered on the streets and atop buildings to oppose the action.
The protesters were joined by Amanatullah Khan and his supporters who raised anti-BJP slogans. According to the police, people pelted stones at security personnel but were chased away. South Delhi civic body officials said that two to three illegal buildings and other temporary structures in the Kanchan Kunj area of Manadpur Khadar were demolished.
A senior police officer said, "We have detained AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan and others who protested against the drive along with supporters and locals. We have made adequate security arrangements to ensure no untoward incident takes place." Security personnel were seen wearing helmets and carrying batons to disperse the crowd during the protest.
The locals alleged the civic authorities had "taken money" to allow construction there and termed the demolition action "politically motivated". Naushad, a 32-year-old resident of the area said the demolition began at 11 am and his brother's building was among the structures razed.
"The police as well as the civic body took money and allowed construction around 20 days ago. But despite that, they demolished it. My brother has papers for the plot he purchased from a farmer. The civic body took Rs 3 lakh from my brother. They are not even ready to speak to us now," he claimed. Another resident of the area told reporters that the action was "politically motivated".
"There is no encroachment here and even if structures were built illegally then where was the SDMC when such buildings were being built?" he posed. Earlier in the day, Khan alleged that the drive-in Madanpur Khadar was against the poor as he appealed to his supporters to reach the area to hold a protest.
"I will not let the houses of the poor bulldozed. Arrest me if that saves houses from being demolished. We are also against encroachment. Tell us about those and we will remove it. There is no encroachment here," the AAP MLA said. SDMC Central Zone Chairman Rajpal Singh however refuted Khan's allegation, saying the drive was against the "mafia" who encroach upon government land.
"Our enforcement teams along with an adequate police force and equipped with bulldozers and trucks have started removing illegal buildings, kiosks, temporary structures in Madanpur Khadar. Our drive against encroachment will continue and anyone obstructing it will be dealt with accordingly," he told PTI. The fresh actions were a part of a series of anti-encroachment drives by the civic bodies since April-mid.
On April 20, an anti-encroachment drive was carried out in Jahangirpuri which had witnessed a communal clash just a few days ago during a Hanuman Jayanti procession in the area. The drive was halted following a Supreme Court order. In the following days, demolition drives were carried out in areas such as Shaheen Bagh, New Friends Colony, Dwarka, and Najafgarh.
On Monday too, AAP's Amanatullah Khan had staged a protest during an anti-encroachment drive in Shaheen Bagh. n FIR was registered against him for "obstructing" officials from carrying out the exercise. In north Delhi, a senior civic body official said, "We have got the police and other personnel, and the anti-encroachment drive is being carried out in Rohini and Karol Bagh zones."A stretch on the KN Katju Marg in Rohini is being cleared of illegal temporary structures while in Patel Nagar action is being taken in Prem Gali, he said.