Aarey Row: A matter of convenience

Updated: Oct 08, 2019, 07:56 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Aarey battle highlights netas' selective concern for greens and environment

Trees being cut in Aarey Colony. Pic/ Sameer Sayyed Abedi
Trees being cut in Aarey Colony. Pic/ Sameer Sayyed Abedi

Perhaps one of the key takeaways of the Aarey battle, which is now in the Supreme Court, is how ordinary people of the city have been motivated into fighting against the authorities felling trees in Goregaon's green belt.'

As for the politicians, they were there for the photo opportunity, and with Vidhan Sabha elections on October 21, the day when apex court will also decide on the Aarey issue, "politicians were expected to use Aarey to be in the limelight," said activists.

One such politician is Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of B R Ambedkar and chief of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. Prakash Ambedkar was detained while trying to enter the Aarey colony along with those opposing the axing of trees. He slammed the state government for using muscle power. Later, calling the Supreme Court stay order "wonderful", he said, "This is a slap in the face of the current government."

However, when questioned on the lack of his objection to tree cutting at Dadar's Indu Mill for the memorial to B R Ambedkar, he hesitated but soon jumped to his defense, saying, "Not a single tree was cut at Indu Mill for the memorial. Critics are now bringing that up because the SC has taken cognizance of our opposition in Aarey."

AareyPrakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) at Aarey’s Powai Gate to protest against the felling of trees at Aarey Colony, Goregaon

Green warrior Zoru Bhathena, however, rubbished Prakash Ambedkar's claim and said, "There were beautiful, old trees that were cleared for the memorial at Indu Mill. There was no protest from any politician at the time. I think close to 100 trees were chopped down." The Shiv Sena is no less; they have come out all guns blazing, slamming the BJP for the tree hacking at Aarey, but in 2016 it wanted a theme park at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. The party, however, gave up on their dreams in 2017 after the BJP said it will decide on the matter.

Debi Goenka, executive trustee of NGO Conservation Action Trust, who had then opposed the theme park proposal said, "The ordinary people are the real heroes in Aarey issue. A lot of this political outrage is 'posturing'." There was consensus on politicians turning a blind eye to green destruction in projects that suited them. AAP spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon questioned the Thackerays for their ranting over Aarey tree felling when Aaditya Thackeray is pushing for a "zoo within Aarey". "Any initiative will entail clearing of trees. There is no need for a zoo inside Aarey and all these are steps to wipe out 1,200 hectares of Aarey forest," she said.

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