Activism may be all the rage these days, but it does come with risks. Shailesh Goyal, who has been on a mission to purge Mumbai of its shantytowns, claims he has now incurred the wrath of the citizen who reside in these very ghettoes.
The activist-petitioner had recently secured an endorsement from Bombay High Court (HC) that ordered the levelling of slums in Jogeshwari and Vakola. The court had directed BMC authorities to demolish unauthorised structures on Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) land. However, the order was stayed last month by the HC, which granted the residents time to consider a redevelopment scheme of the housing body.
Meanwhile, Goyal, a resident of Bhayander, has written to the deputy superintendent of police, Thane (Rural), complaining about the harassment. As per his letter, on February 8, a group of 25 to 30 people came to his home and intimidated his mother. They were armed with a copy of the court order and had come looking for him. Goyal was not at home at the time.
Last year, the activist had filed a petition against unauthorised occupants of lands in Anand Nagar, Santacruz (E) and Sarvodaya Nagar, MHB Colony at Majaswadi in Jogeshwari (E). On October 1, the division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice NM Jamdar ordered MHADA to prepare a plan of all sanctioned construction on its land, and instructed BMC to send demolition notices to all unauthorised dwellers.
The HC had even ordered the City Civil Court not to hear any suits about illegal structures in these areas in response to any action taken by the administration. After 142 notices were sent out, occupants replied that they intended to go for redevelopment, and approached the court to stay the demolition.
On January 31, the division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice AV Mohta directed MHADA to take a call on redevelopment of the tenements either on its own or through the federation of co-operative societies, by March 31. The court then put its earlier order for demolition in abeyance and adjourned the matter to April 10.
Speaking to MiD DAY about the threat, Goyal said, “When I inquired with the secretary of the building, he informed me that the mob had come with a copy of the January 31 order. I don’t know what they had come for, as I never met them. But my PIL has affected their development plans, so I have asked for protection.”
In his letter, Goyal said, “I apprehend that the group of persons aggrieved by the orders may try to cause bodily hurt or injury to me or may even harm my life. I am being targeted as I am a public-spirited person.” His correspondence sent on February 10, asked for police protection and filing of a case against the men. He is yet to receive a reply.