It's Poonam Mahajan vs Shah Rukh Khan in Bandra

Acting on complaints by locals, the BJP MP has written to the BMC chief, asking him to demolish the ramp next to the superstar’s bungalow Mannat, where he parks his vanity van; over the years, the ramp and the adjoining road have often been in the eye of a storm

People power may well trump star power in this battle. Bandra residents’ fight to reclaim a stretch of road which has allegedly been encroached upon by a ramp constructed by actor Shah Rukh Khan has got an important leg up in the form of support from local MP Poonam Mahajan, who has written a letter to the BMC on the issue.

Also read: Cops barricade road to Bandra Fair so that Shah Rukh Khan is not disturbed

Shah Rukh Khan Poonam Mahajan
Shah Rukh Khan and Poonam Mahajan

According to local residents, this is the first time that a member of parliament who represents Bandra (which is a part of the Mumbai North Central parliamentary constituency) has written a letter about the cement ramp next to Mannat, which is often used by Khan to park his vanity van.

This cement ramp next to the star’s bungalow, Mannat, is often used to park his vanity van. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
This cement ramp next to the star’s bungalow, Mannat, is often used to park his vanity van. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

Mahajan wrote to Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte on January 29 and asked him to get the illegal cement ramp demolished. She, however, mentioned an illegal ramp constructed by a bungalow owner in Bandra and refrained from taking the names of Khan or Mannat.

The ramp next to Mannat
The ramp next to Mannat

Residents say the ramp prevents them from using a portion of an important thoroughfare and blocks the way to the stairs that lead to Mount Mary Church from Bandstand. It becomes especially important during the Bandra fair, which is held every year in the month of September.

Also read: One year later, cops stop pilgrims again at Mannat

BJP MP Poonam Mahajan Shah Rukh Khan
BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and Shah Rukh Khan

Hope bolstered
They say that they have been running from pillar to post to get the ramp removed, but to no avail and they are hoping that things change with Mahajan getting involved. Advocate Shane Cardoz, a resident who has been fighting against the ramp, said, “A few residents had met Poonam regarding the matter, and she wrote a letter to the BMC.

With her involvement in the case, we are expecting that things will move faster. The change in the government has also bolstered our hopes. The ramp becomes an issue, especially during the Bandra fair, when people are stopped from using the road. It is a public road, why should people be stopped from using it?”

He added, “In the last few months, we could get many slums demolished because the political interference is decreasing. Things are changing and the people of Bandra want to use the road as it belongs to the government.”

'People above all'
When mid-day spoke to Mahajan, she said she wrote the letter after the residents met her and showed her documents that proved that the road belongs to the government and should be handed over to the public for use. “The roads in Bandra are narrow as it is, and no individual or organisation is above the people.

Also read: BMC to conduct inquiry into closed road next to SRK's bungalow

The road belongs to the government and should be given to the public. I had promised the residents that I would try to resolve whatever problem they have. Justice should be done irrespective of who the person on the other side is.” Mahajan said that she didn’t take any names in the letter because she didn’t feel like dragging in any individual.

“I have written to the commissioner and will follow up with him. My only issue is that the road, which is meant for the people, should be used by them. During the Bandra fair, the path is used a lot and the ramp leads to chaos. The issue needs to be sorted out,” she said.

Prakkash G Rohiira, a realtor who uses the road often, said, “This is not the first time that public property has been modified for personal convenience but, knowing Shah Rukh, we feel he will understand the people’s troubles and sort this issue out.”

A source close to Shah Rukh Khan said that the road belongs to the actor and has not been taken over by the BMC yet. “We are ready to give the road, but the BMC hasn’t yet taken it. Until the BMC takes it over, it is our property.” Neither Khan nor Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte responded to our calls and messages.

Court case
In September, activist Nicholas Almeida had moved a local court in Bandra seeking to file a nuisance lawsuit against Shah Rukh Khan for “illegally” constructing the ramp adjoining his residence. Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte and three of his subordinates had also been made respondents.

“The said illegal ramp constructed by Khan is an important thoroughfare, especially during the Bandra fair, which is being held every year in the month of September since the last three centuries,” the complainant had said in his plea.

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