29 activists have been arrested since Friday night in Mumbai after they tried to stop the authorities from cutting trees at Aarey Colony.
Section 144 imposed and any gathering of four or more people is banned now, the Mumbai Police said this morning. Roads leading to Aarey blocked by police as protesters escalated their fight to save Mumbai’s ‘green lung’.
On Friday, Bombay HC gave its nod to the felling of over 2,500 trees for the Metro project. The Bombay High Court on Friday cancelled four petitions challenging cutting of trees at Aarey Colony for the metro car shed.
A police case (First Information Report) has been filed against 38 people, Mumbai Police public relations officer Pranaya Ashok said. Twenty have been arrested and they will appear in a court today, he said.
Some protesters camped just outside Aarey through the night as the police stopped them from entering the area, sources said. They alleged the authorities came under the cover of darkness to raze the trees.
Meanwhile, Several celebrities, politicians — including those from the Shiv Sena — and Mumbaikars gathered to protest against the move on Saturday.
After the video surfaced, Gujarat Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani and Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray appealed to the people of Mumbai to resist the "illegal" action.
In a Tweet, Aditya Thackeray said: “A project that should be executed with pride, the Metro 3, @MumbaiMetro3 has to do it in the cover of the night, with shame, slyness and heavy cop cover.
The project supposed to get Mumbai clean air, is hacking down a forest with a leopard, rusty spotted cat and more”
Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said the entry points to Aarey have been blocked by the Mumbai Police. "I have been forcibly evicted by the cops and I wasn't even breaking the law! The cops in the car wont even tell me where I am being taken... this is insane," she tweeted.
The activists gathered at Aarey Colony after a video showing a tree being cut was widely circulated on social media. They alleged the trees were being cut illegally. According to the rules of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), trees can be cut 15 days after posting the court order to do so on its website, sources said.
"...the permission for the tree cutting of Aarey metro 3 Car shed depot was uploaded on the MCGM website on 4th October 2019 evening and tree cutting began the same night. The courts are shut for the weekend and then for Dussehra. We need time to challenge this in court, which we will not have and by the time courts reopen, the forest will be gone," the activists said in a statement.
However, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Managing Director Ashwini Bhide denied this allegation. "A new false propaganda is in the air that 15 days notice is required after tree authority order getting uploaded on website. This is absolutely baseless. Tree Authority order is issued on 13th Sept 19. 15 days r over on 28th Sept. Action awaited till Hon HC verdict was out," Ms Bhide tweeted.
For the last two years, environmentalists have been protesting the decision to build a car shed for Mumbai Metro at Aarey Colony, which has more than five lakh trees.