Aarey row: Section 144 imposed, activists detained

Of over 2,600 trees which are to be felled, 200 had been cut by Friday night, activists alleged. Photo/Twitter (AAP Maharashtra)

Amidst tension and protests,  the Mumbai police on Saturday clamped prohibitory orders in Aarey where the Metro project authorities have started chopping off trees to pave for a car shed. Nearly 70 to 100 protestors have been detained.

The felling of trees started on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday after a Bombay High Court division bench comprising justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice Bharati Dangre dismissed all the Public Interest Litigations (PIL) against the construction of Metro rail car-shed at Aarey by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL). 

Hundreds of people gathered at the site of the proposed car shed after they were informed that trees were being axed by authorities late Friday night after the Bombay High Court refused to declare Aarey colony a forest and also declining to quash the BMC tree authority's decision allowing felling of over 2,600 trees in the green zone to set up a metro car shed.

"We have imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in Aarey Colony, Goregaon check post and surrounding areas," the Mumbai police spokesperson said.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC ban unlawful assembly near the metro-rail project site in Aarey Forest. 

As of now, at least 38 protesters have been booked under section 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 143 (unlawful assembly) and 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), he said.

Read: Mumbai Metro may destroy another green patch

The proposed car shed of Metro Line 3 in the Aarey Milk Colony,  considered a 'green lung' of Mumbai, is a bone of contention between the Shiv Sena and the BJP.

Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, who is contesting the October 21 assembly election from Worli, extended his support to the protesters.

"A project that should be executed with pride, the Metro 3,  (MMRCL) has to do it in the cover of the night, with shame, slyness and heavy cop cover.  The project supposed to get Mumbai clean air, is hacking down a forest with a leopard, rusty spotted cat and more," he tweeted.

The Mumbai police have cordoned the Aarey entry check-posts at Marol Maroshi, Powai and Goregaon.

"Many of us including me were detained by the Police and then released. Sadly, a large number of Adivasi women are still detained at Dahisar Police Station and Aarey Police Station since last night," said Ruben Mascarenhas, national joint secretary, AAP.

Environment activists criticised the authorities, claiming that almost 200 trees have been cut so far. They alleged the metro corporation wants to finish the job before October 10, when the matter comes before the National Green Tribunal.

Defending the action, MMRCL managing director Ashwini Bhide said 'a new false propaganda is in the air that 15 days notice is required after tree authority order getting uploaded on the website.' "This is absolutely baseless. Tree Authority order is issued on 13th Sept 19. 15 days r over on 28th Sept. Action awaited till Hon HC verdict was out....HC has dismissed 4 petitions and has also imposed fine of Rs 50000 for a frivolous petition (sic)," she tweeted. 

"Hon. Bombay HC has dismissed all petitions in unequivocally clear terms 2de. But sm people consider themselves superior 2 Judiciery as well. While their own actions r illegal they city foul. If you lose a battle in court, better to accept it honourably than to take it to street (sic)," Bhide added.

"This matter is going to be heard by the NGT on October 10, and we hope to get some respite from there. But it seems like the authorities want to eliminate the entire green patch before the hearing," Stalin D, one of the activists, said.

"It is a garrison of full bandobast..  Amidst all that still, some of us managed to retain the ground. The cops are treating activists like criminals... MMRCL is so proactive at night...  Mumbai city will never forgive those who remained silent at this hour, " said Dr. Avkash Jadhav,  Head and Associate Prof  Department of History, St.Xavier’s College, Mumbai. 

Meanwhile,  the Mumbai police denied any highhandedness.  "The allegations made by some persons of high handedness by Mumbai Police during the Aarey bandobast are false. All due procedures and legally valid steps were taken while handling the situation. The situation currently is peaceful and due legal procedures are being followed," said Pranaya Ashok, DCP (Operations), Mumbai Police.

Videos of tree-felling went viral on social media, though it could not be confirmed from Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation officials if indeed tree cutting for the planned metro car shed in Aarey had begun.

Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon said cutting the trees was "a violation of the model code of conduct".

"The order was uploaded by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation only today, so it is deemed as an order today. They can't issue such orders when the code of conduct is in place," she told

The Aarey Colony, measuring 1,287 hectares and located adjoining the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is known as a major green lung of the metropolis. Several Bollywood personalities and politicians have also extended their support to the activists protesting against the felling of trees in Aarey. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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