Several protestors in Mumbai were detained on Friday night after they attempted to stop authorities from cutting trees at Aarey Colony, hours after the Bombay High Court rejected petitions against the exercise, NDTV reported. According to The Indian Express, at least 26 activists were detained at Dahisar police station.

The police on Saturday said Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which bans the assembly of four or more people, had been imposed in Aarey Colony and surrounding areas.

There were reports of the police charging at protestors with batons. Bulldozers were brought in by authorities as the demonstrators looked on. Several protestors camped outside Aarey through the night as the police stopped them from entering the area, according to unidentified officials. They accused civic body and Mumbai Metro officials of razing the trees in the cover of darkness. According to some accounts on social media, residents were not allowed to enter the area, and buses were also stopped.

While some activists claimed on Twitter that the trees were being cut illegally as an order to do so needs to be uploaded by a government website 15 days in advance, the Mumbai Metro authority tweeted a link to such an order, which is dated September 13.

The protest occurred even as Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani criticised the action of civic body officials. “Wonder why Mumbai Metro is treating Mumbaikars like criminals and not listening to sensible demand of sustainable development,” tweeted Thackeray, whose party is in power in the state as well as the municipality. “The project [is] supposed to get Mumbai clean air, is hacking down a forest with a leopard, rusty spotted cat and more.”

Stalin D, a member of non-governmental organisation Vanashakti that was one of the petitioners in the High Court, questioned Thackeray and the Shiv Sena. “Why can’t the environment minister under your party stop the work since there is a clear violation of terms of MPCB consent to establish?” he asked on Twitter. “You can legally stop the work. Are you willing to walk the talk, sir? Call me if you are.”

Mevani, meanwhile, urged the city’s residents to resist the cutting of trees. “Lathicharge done for the first time at the peaceful protests for Aarey,” he tweeted. “People have been detained inside, gates have been closed and the authorities are abusing the protestors. Women have been pushed and detained by the police at this hour, which is lawfully wrong.”

Also read:

  1. From Parsis to Adivasis, Mumbai’s metro project faces heat from citizens
  2. Saving Aarey: Why a city with a weak protest culture is demonstrating to protect Mumbai’s green lung

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