Day after the Bombay High Court dismissed all petitions against the proposed axing of over 2,500 trees in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony, the officials cut down nearly 1,500 trees on Saturday, leading to a string of protests in the city. As the protests against felling of trees intensified, the police arrested 29 protesters and imposed section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in Aarey Colony and surrounding areas, restricting movements and gathering of groups, and cordoned off the area.
“We have imposed section 144 of the CrPC in Aarey Colony, Goregaon check post and surrounding areas,” the Mumbai Police said.
As the felling of trees began, a high political drama erupted with the opposition in Maharashtra blaming the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena for the “slaughter” of trees. Congress also slammed the Shiv Sena of adopting double standards by condemning the BMC tree authority’s decision to cut 2,600 trees but continuing to support the BJP-led government.
Police have also booked 38 protesters under various sections of the IPC since late Friday night after they entered the metro rail site as the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) began felling of trees. Several people, including NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad, Shiv Sena leaders Priyanka Chaturvedi and former Mayor Shubha Raul, were detained while protesting against the felling of trees.
AAREY FOREST PROTESTS: 10 POINTS
1. Clashes were reported in Aarey Colony between the Mumbai Police and protesters who tried to stop the felling of trees for the construction of Mumbai metro.
2. As the cutting of the trees continued despite massive protests, the activists tried to get relief from the Bombay High Court, seeking a stay so that they could approach the Supreme Court against BMC tree authority’s decision. The activists argued that an appeal would be filed in the apex court on Monday but by then the MMRCL would have completed cutting all trees in Aarey Colony.
3. The application by the activists was taken up for urgent hearing by Justices SC Dharmadhikari and AK Menon. However, the green activists suffered a second jolt after the high court bench refused to stay ongoing felling of trees at Aarey Colony.
4. Advocate Akshay Shinde, appearing for the MMRCL, told the judges that they initiated the action of cutting trees only after the HC on Friday dismissed the petitions challenging the approval granted by the BMC Tree Authority. The bench, after hearing brief arguments, said it would not interfere with Friday’s order and refused to grant a stay on the MMRCL action.
5. Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya Thackeray slammed the Mumbai metro for axing the trees in Aarey Colony just hours after the Bombay HC’s decision to not quash the BMC tree authority’s decision, allowing felling of over 2,600 trees.
6. Aaditya Thackeray also condemned the detention of protesters outside Aarey Colony and cutting down of trees during the enforcement of model code of conduct before the assembly elections. Requesting Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to look into the matter, Aaditya Thackeray said it was a matter of “shame” if protesters were being arrested and filed cases against.
7. The issue has taken a political hue in the run-up to assembly polls, with the Opposition parties blaming ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena for their “failure” in saving trees.
8. Senior Congress leader and former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam, who went to protest against the felling of trees in Aarey Colony, condemned the BMC tree authority’s decision to cut trees at night. He also protested the arrest of activists.
Sanjay Nirupam said the Shiv Sena was adopting “double standards”, as it condemned tree felling but continues to support the BJP-led government.
9. Congress’s Milind Deora called the tree cutting decision akin to “stabbing yourself in the lungs” and said the “brutal” felling of trees was a setback for Mumbai. Taking to Twitter, Milind Deora said, “It’s like repeatedly stabbing yourself in the lungs. When cities destroy coastlines and green cover, they are advancing the doomsday clock.”
10. Amid strong opposition from green activists, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar cited a Bombay High Court order to defend the Mumbai Metro Corporation’s move to fell trees in Aarey Colony, saying it was “not a forest”.
“Basically the high court has decided and ruled yesterday that it is not a forest,” Javadekar told reporters here. “You can’t fell anything that is a forest,” he said.