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Builder-politician nexus in Ahmedabad for land named after Morarji behind tension in minority area: NGO team

Morarji Chowk
By Our Representative
A fact-finding team led by volunteers of the civil rights organization Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM), Ahmedabad, has said that the recent tension in a Muslim neighbourhood of old Bapunagar area, where the Gujarat Housing Board wants to construct an affordable housing scheme, is the direct result of the nexus between local politicians and builders.
Alleging that the builders have been “eyeing” an open plot of land, Morarji Chowk, for years, a report prepared by a social activist for the team, Mujahid Nafis, said, “Ever since the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Gujarat government has wished to occupy the open space variously for a Gujarat Housing Board scheme or an accommodation for the police personnel.”
Quoting locals, the report said, the land has been used as a playground for children ever since Morarji Desai came here around 1951, apart from social functions and, now, as a parking lot as well. “Even state level football matches were played on this ground. Despite pressures, the local people have fought the efforts by interested parties to acquire the land”, it added.
“We were told by local women how State Reserve Police (SRP) personnel were trying to provoke tension by misbehaving with the local people for a few days. Things turned ugly on June 6, when, following prayers in the mosque opposite the Morarji Chowk, there were efforts to pacify tension”, the report said.
Without recalling the police claim that a mob of around 3,000 people had gathered to torch the nearby police station, the report said, the tension erupted four days before the incident on June 6, when some unidentified persons torched a few motorbikes parked, leading to a tent nearby catching fire.
Following this, on the night of June 6-7, the report said, “Cops entered several houses, and picked up 85 male folk at random. This included 11 adolescents, who were freed following local pressure. The police wanted to know who had torched the motorbikes.”
“The police FIR names of 10 persons who allegedly were involved in torching the motorbikes, apart from an unidentified crowd of 2,500-3000 persons”, the report said, adding, “One of the persons named in the FIR had gone abroad on May 16.”
The issue of construction of a Gujarat Housing Board (GHB) society in the Morarji Chowk is under dispute in the Gujarat High Court, which in May third week stayed the work.
This happened after the petitioners, who had filed a public interest litigation (PIL), stated before the court that construction had started in the free space on May 16, even though the matter was pending before the High Court. The next hearing by Justice AJ Shastri was posted on June 7, the date on which the incident took place.
The GHB maintained during the argument in the court that categorisation of the Morarji Chowk land as playground was a “mistake”.
This was the second attempt by the GHB to use the land for housing scheme. In 1989, residents of the area had moved the Gujarat High Court against such a move. However, the GHB declared that it was not coming up with any construction on the plot, and the petition was disposed of.
The fact-finding team consisted of JSM’s Shamshadbhai Pathan, an advocate, Imtiaz Pathan and Ejaz Ansari, activists Azima and Mujahid Nafees, individuals Kaushar Ali Syed, Ejaz Pathan, Javed Kureshi, Vasif Husain, and independent journalist Kalim Siddiqui.

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