BJP playing bulldozer politics for electoral dividends, say Congress workers who resisted Shaheen Bagh drive

Congress members Parvez Alam, Aarfa Khanam, Hedayatullah ‘Gentle’, Shazia Faizan, Aashu Khan and Shaheen Khan were detained at Shaheen Bagh and taken to Kalkaji police station

BJP playing bulldozer politics for electoral dividends, say Congress workers who resisted Shaheen Bagh drive

Ashlin Mathew

“For 15 years, BJP has been at the helm of the South MCD and just days before their term ends, they wake up to encroachments. They have got bulldozers here only to send a signal to their communal vote bank. They are being selective and playing the politics of hatred,” says Aarfa Khanum, a lawyer and a Congress party worker who was detained at Shaheen Bagh on Monday.

Congress worker Shazia Faizan climbed on top of a bulldozer to bring it to a halt while an ailing Khanum was stopped by the police near the bulldozer.

The Delhi police detained several people, including six Congress workers and a social activist, for protesting and blocking bulldozers in south Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area, where the south Delhi Municipal Corporation had scheduled an anti-encroachment drive on Monday.

Congress members Parvez Alam, Aarfa Khanam, Hedayatullah ‘Gentle’, Shazia Faizan, Aashu Khan, Shaheen Khan and social activist Sakina were detained initially around noon at Shaheen Bagh and later taken to Kalkaji police station from where they were released only by 6.30 pm.

BJP began this politics of hatred drive in the capital from Jahangirpuri where they demolished establishments of poor shop owners, said Khanum. “They are looking at selectively targeting a few communities. Encroachments should be removed, but there were no encroachments on the Shaheen Bagh main road. We are against the illegal bulldozers,” she added.

Faizan, who stepped on top of a bulldozer to block it, said they got the bulldozers to Shaheen Bagh to create a sense of fear. BJP plays bulldozer politics in several states and it has given them electoral dividends, and now they are attempting to communalise relatively peaceful areas in the national Capital too, she said.

“They want to create fear in the minds of the people here. Otherwise, there was no need to bring bulldozers or even publicise an anti-encroachment drive, which the south MCD officials are claiming to be a routine affair,” added Faizan.

On Sunday, people in the area were informed that MCD officials wouldn’t bring any bulldozers to the area, said Khanum, but by Monday morning, we got to know that bulldozers had already arrived by 10.30am. “Who are the MCD officials targeting? The poor people who try to make a living hawking on the road? Is poverty their crime? Where are they supposed to go then? Even public officials should have compassion while doing these drives,” said Khanam.

If the government and MCD officials want to remove these poor hawkers from roads, then they should first make alternate arrangements where these people can sell their goods and wares, asserted Khanam. If such arrangements were made, no one would object to any drive, said Khanam.

“The government should look for encroachments in the posh colonies. They have the money to fight. We are against any official bulldozing of the livelihood of the poor. They will struggle for months to get back on their feet,” she said.

There are allegations of encroachment near Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta’s residence, pointed out Alam. If the municipal corporations are genuinely interested in removing encroachments, they should take their bulldozer there, added Alam.

Hedayatullah ‘Gentle’ was one of the first leaders to be dragged by the police for lying down in front of a bulldozer. He was joined by Alam, who was also detained and taken to Kalkaji police station. “They made a schedule of anti-encroachment drives they were going to conduct and in none of those places, they created a spectacle. The spectacle was only at Shaheen Bagh. This makes us question their motives,” said Hedayatullah.

Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Anil Kumar said the Congress’ stand has always been that the poor people should not be uprooted without giving them alternate land or accommodation. The Congress Government had started in-situ construction of flats to resettle those living in JJ clusters as they have as much right to live in Delhi as all others, because they play a very vital role in the development and progress of the national Capital, he said.

Kumar said it was strange that the BJP detected ‘encroachments’ on government land after ruling the MCDs for 15 years, and nurturing the unauthorised colonies and JJ clusters as their vote bank all these years, while the Arvind Kejriwal government has the very same people who played a major role in electing AAP to power in Delhi.

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    Published: 09 May 2022, 9:26 PM