At least 29 people were arrested in Mumbai in connection with protests against authorities’ move to cut trees in the city’s Aarey Colony area, PTI reported. They are among the 60 people who were detained earlier in the day by the police for allegedly getting into a scuffle with officials and assaulting them, according to Hindustan Times.
The police have imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the area, banning the assembly of more than four people.
The protestors started demonstrating against the authorities’ move to start cutting trees in the area on Friday night to clear the area for a metro car shed, hours after the Bombay High Court rejected petitions against the exercise. The police charged at protestors with batons even as many demonstrators camped outside Aarey through the night. The police stopped people from entering the area, according to unidentified officials. According to some accounts on social media, residents were not allowed to enter the area, and buses were also stopped.
Shiv Sena Corporator Sheetal Mhatre and party leader Priyanka Chaturvedi were among those detained by the police. Their colleague Aaditya Thackeray, who is the son of party President Uddhav Thackeray, took to social media on Friday night to criticise the authorities. The Shiv Sena is part of the ruling coalition in the state, and is also in power in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
Aaditya Thackeray, who wondered why Mumbai Metro officials were treating Mumbaikars like criminals “and not listening to sensible demand of sustainable development”, said “the vigour with which the Mumbai Metro was slyly and swiftly cutting down an ecosystem in Aarey is shameful and disgusting”.
“How about posting these officials in PoK, giving them charge to destroy terror camps rather than trees?” he added. He questioned the police move to detain Mhatre, and asked why such a large number of police personnel had been deployed for the purpose.
However, the Opposition Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress criticised the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party for failing to save the Aarey forest.
“The Aarey tree felling is nothing but hitting Mumbaikars by first rendering them helpless,” tweeted NCP leader Nawab Malik. “The Shiv Sena bedeviled for the last 25 years. Now, it is holding common Mumbaikars to ransom in alliance with BJP.”
Taking a dig at Aaditya Thackeray, Malik asked where the “fake environment lovers” were when the tree felling started”.
The Congress asked the Sena if its alliance with the BJP was more important than saving trees. “This is the time Shiv Sena,” tweeted Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant. “You are in the government, can stop this. The Mahayuti [mega alliance] is more important or the mega loss of trees?”
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