NEW DELHI: The C-Block of Jahangirpuri in north-west Delhi, where a Hanuman Jayanti procession last Saturday had led to communal riots, faced the wrath of the north corporation’s bulldozers on Wednesday. Responding to Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta’s letter on Tuesday calling for action against illegal constructions of the riot accused in the area, the civic body sent in nine demolition machines early in the morning and began clearing a street under the watchful eyes of over 1,500 policemen and paramilitary forces.
The first bulldozer arrived around 10.15am. For the next two hours, the JCBs were unstoppable though a Chief Justice-led Supreme Court bench, responding to an urgent plea by senior advocate Dushyant Dave, on behalf of the affected members of the Muslim community, had ordered status quo at the site around 10.50am. But citing the absence of a written order, the corporation officials persisted with the drive till around 12.20pm, taking down one structure after another, till CPM’s Brinda Karat landed at the spot around the time when the SC was reiterating its order after being told that the drive had not stopped.
The civic officials on the spot said the entire operation was part of an ongoing drive and no permanent structures were touched. They also ruled out giving any notices because they claimed they didn’t know the identities of the encroachers. Since the word of the impending demolitions had reached Jahangirpuri a day earlier, the area was tense since the morning. C-Block and the nearby streets were bristling with cops, who were also keeping vigil on the terraces of several houses to apparently guard against any stone-pelting. Special commissioner of police (law & order) Dependra Pathak, who was on the spot with his personnel, said they were there to maintain peace. “The situation is peaceful and we have adequate deployment in the area,” he said even as residents of C-D blocks, mostly ragpickers, were scampering around, shifting their waste stockpiles out of the area.
With the demolition drive unfolding, the crowd began to swell and sullenly watch from a distance. The policemen kept them behind the main gates of their respective blocks. These residents were asking why the corporation had woken up suddenly if the structures were illegal and were questioning the timing of the entire operation.