29 Aarey protesters held
Twenty-nine people were arrested on Saturday for resisting the felling of 2,656 trees in parts of Mumbai’s Aarey Colony for a proposed Metro car shed. Those arrested include women and students, a police officer said.
The entire Aarey Colony was cordoned off by the police in the morning after hundreds of green activists tried to stop the felling of trees by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) for the Metro-3 line rake depot.
The MMRCL action began hours after Bombay High Court on Friday dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and activists challenging the decision of the Tree Authority of the Mumbai civic body to allow the felling of trees.
On Saturday, green activists suffered another jolt when the high court refused to stay the cutting of trees. The activists had sought the stay so that they could approach the Supreme Court.
The police officer said: “We have arrested 29 protesters. Six of them are women. Some of them had manhandled and beaten the police personnel deployed at Aarey Colony and obstructed them from discharging their duty.”
A case has been registered under IPC Sections 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) on the complaint of a 28-year-old woman police constable who was injured in the alleged attack.
In Lucknow, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar cited the Bombay High Court order to defend the move to fell trees, saying Aarey was “not a forest”.
“Basically the high court has decided and ruled yesterday that it is not a forest,” Javadekar told reporters here.
Hitting out at the Mumbai Metro authorities, Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray came out in support of environmental activists who have been detained or arrested.
Thackeray, whose party is an ally of the ruling BJP, requested Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to ask the police not to file cases against the protesters who tried to stop the felling of trees.
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam condemned the felling of trees. Milind Deora, his party colleague, called the tree cutting “stabbing yourself in the lungs”.
The MMRC dismissed the green activists’ contention on Saturday that a fresh notice was needed before cutting trees in Aarey Colony after Bombay High Court dismissed petitions opposing it.
MMRC managing director Ashwini Bhide, in a series of tweets, said the activists should accept their defeat in the court “honourably”.