The Satara district administration in Maharashtra on Thursday began demolishing “unauthorised structures” around the tomb of Afzal Khan, a general of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur, PTI reported.
Khan was killed by Maratha ruler Shivaji near the Pratapgarh Fort in 1659. Later, a tomb was built at the spot. Notably, the Satara administration took the action on the 363rd anniversary of the incident, celebrated as “Shiv Pratap Din” by some organisations in Maharashtra.
The demolition started in the early hours of Thursday amid heavy police security and is still underway, officials told PTI.
“We have removed the illegal structures such as permanent rooms built around the Afzal Khan tomb premises,” Satara Collector Ruchesh Jaiwanshi said. “The action has been taken as per orders of the High Court and directions given by the state government.”
Jaiwanshi added that the structures were spread over 15 to 20 gunthas of land (one guntha is equal to 1,089 square feet). He claimed some portion of the land belongs to the forest and revenue departments.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told Marathi news channels that it was a proud day for everyone as the demolition was carried out on the day when Khan was killed by the Maratha king.
“In 2007, the court had ordered removal of the encroachment,” Fadnavis added. “In 2017, we started the process but some legal problems came up. There were demands [of removal of encroachments] from Shiv-premis [Shivaji’s followers] but when they staged protests, cases were registered against them and the encroachment was never removed. Today, it is a matter of satisfaction for everyone...”
Meanwhile, a plea has been filed by Hazrat Mohd Afzal Khans Memorial Society before the Supreme Court seeking to ensure that the tomb is not damaged, ANI reported.
“A local online news channel has been running live coverage of the demolition of unauthorised structures around Afzal Khan’s Tomb in Satara,” the petition said. “Screenshots from the said live coverage show that men have climbed the roof of the tomb/dargah with the help of a ladder and are attempting to demolish it.”
A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justices Hima Kohli and JB Pardiwala will hear the matter on Friday.