A massive protest erupted in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh on Monday ahead of a demolition drive planned by the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled South Delhi Municipal Corporation, reported PTI. The Muslim-dominated neighbourhood was among the sites in the national capital where protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were held in 2019 and 2020.

Protestors shouted slogans against the civic body and the central government, demanding to stop the demolition drive. The exercise was soon halted amid the protest, reported NDTV.

Aam Aadmi Party MLA Amanatullah Khan also joined the demonstration.

“People have already removed encroachments on my request,” he told reporters, according to ANI. ‘Wazu khana’ [a place for washing hands and feet before the prayer] and toilets outside a mosque here were removed in presence of police, earlier. When there are no encroachments, why have they come here? Just to do politics?”

The demolition drive is part of a month-long exercise announced by South Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor Mukesh Suryan on April 25. The mayor, however, does not have the power to order such action. A similar exercise was conducted in the Tughlakabad area on May 4.

On Monday, Rajpal Singh, the chairperson of the civic body’s central zone standing committee said that workers and officials were ready to begin the drive and that bulldozers have been organised, reported ANI.

The Delhi Police will provide security to what the civic body describes as an “anti-encroachment” exercise. The drive was first planned on May 6 but could not be conducted as there were not enough police officials, according to NDTV.

Residents of Shaheen Bagh sat on roads as part of the protest to stop the bulldozers from razing structures.

Later on Monday, Singh said that from 11 am on Tuesday, encroachments will be removed in Delhi’s New Friends Colony area, ANI reported.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court refused to hear a plea filed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) seeking to stop the demolition drive in Shaheen Bagh. A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai questioned why a political party had filed the petition and asked the CPI(M) to approach a High Court.

When the CPI(M) urged the court to put a stay on the demolition drive for two days, Justice Rao said: “Not at your behest. If hawkers are encroaching, they will be removed.”

Monday’s demolition drive by the civic body began nearly two weeks after the North Delhi Municipal Corporation had razed shops and homes, mostly owned by Muslims, in the city’s Jahangirpuri area despite a stay order by the Supreme Court.

The Jahangirpuri demolitions were carried out on April 20, just four days after the locality was hit by communal violence. Eight policemen and a civilian were injured after a clash between members of Hindu and Muslim communities during a Hanuman Jayanti procession.

A day after the Jahangirpuri demolition drive, BJP’s Delhi unit chief Adesh Gupta had said that civic bodies in the city’s eastern and southern parts should also carry out demolition drives to “remove illegal encroachments by Bangladeshis and Rohingyas”.

All the three civic bodies in the national capital are governed by the BJP.

Complaint against AAP MLA

The South Delhi civic body has filed a police complaint against Khan and his supporters for allegedly obstructing its’s anti-encroachment drive in Shaheen Bagh, PTI reported.

The complaint by the civic body came hours after Gupta wrote a letter to South Delhi mayor asking him to do so.

“Amanatullah Khan MLA (Okhla) along with his supporters present did not allow the field staff of the SDMC zone to remove the encroachment,” the complaint said. “ In view of the above, you are requested to take appropriate legal action against Amanatullah Khan and his supporters for interfering in discharge of official duties by public servant.”

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