A week after the VMC conducted the draw for 340 families displaced in the wake of the November 2014 Kalyannagar demolitions for flats in the Sayajipura underJNNURM scheme, the families are yet to receive allotment letters from the civic body. In the backdrop of agitations by Sayajipura residents objecting to the relocation of Muslims in their “peaceful Hindu area”, local BJP leaders, including MLAs, met the families on Wednesday, urging them to “withdraw” from the Sayajipura housing scheme for another “location of their choice”.
In a hushed meeting that began shortly after 2 pm at the Circuit Housein Vadodaraon Wednesday, topBJP leaders met a group of the Kalyannagar residents, urging them to givean “application” to the civic body withdrawing from the allotments made last week.
Sources said that those part of the meeting were BJP City President BharatDangar, Mayor BharatShah, MP Ranjan Bhatt, MLAs Yogesh Patel, Manisha Vakil and Rajendra Trivedi, Corporators Shabdasharan Brahmabhatt and Ashok Pardesi as well as Gujarat Minister of State Shankar Chaudhary.
Kalyannagar residents said the leaders asked them to withdraw from Sayajipura due to the “communal discord” that the allotments had caused, with stiff opposition from the locals in the area. Representatives of the families, however, insisted that the BJP leaders promise them relocation in the Kalyannagar area in exchange.
Arif Pathan, who led the group of Kalyannagar residents in their meetings with authorities, said, “We were called by the BJP for a meeting to resolve this issue of the protest and our relocation. They asked us to find a way out from this. We told them that we were poor people. It is they who shouldbe resolving this issue and giving us our homes. To that, BharatDangar said, we shouldgive an applicationto the VMC Commissioner H S Patel, stating that we are willing to withdraw from the Sayajinagar scheme due to the objection from the locals and they will arrange an alternate accommodation for us in a Muslim area. We asked them to giveus an undertaking in writingthat they will not leave us in a lurch. But they insisted that we must withdraw first through an application.”
A party leader present at the meeting said the rationale behind calling the meeting was a last-ditch attempt to convince the families to giveup their claim on Sayajipura and areas from where the VMC is facing opposition. The leader said, “The party is trying to resolve the problem as the residents of Sayajipura are opposed to the decision to shift Muslim families, while the Kalyannagar families insist on Kalali or Sayajipura. Both locations are seeming difficult to offeras the VMC is facing opposition in both areas. We requested them to understand the situation and agree to moving to some other areas where
they can be accommodated.”
Representatives of the families are wary that submitting an applicationto the VMC to relinquish claim on the Sayajipura allotments could mean giving the civic body the authority to offerthem far flung areas that the families have been refusing.
Shaukat Indori, an activist who is supporting the residents’ case, said, “The residents were called to the Circuit houseby BJP leaders and tacitly pressurised to withdraw. We have a strong feeling that there is a lobby at workbehind this and not the actual residents of Sayajipura. The political lobbies are trying to portray a picture of discord so that Muslims are kept out of the Sayajipura. There is no reason why the families would want to withdraw from Sayajipura as it has been their demand to relocate them there if not Kalali and Kalyannagar itself.”
Later in the evening, the families met VMC officials in a closed-door meeting – including MunicipalCommissioner HS Patel, seekingallotment letters for the draw conducted last week. The residents, backed by eminent Muslim activists of the city, have formed a Peace Committee and urged that the civic body undertake a “Sadbhavna programme” with religious leaders belonging to both faiths in Sayajipura to allay the anxieties of local families towards the move of the Muslim families.
Dangar denied having summoned the Kalyannagar families to the Circuit housemeeting. Instead, he said that the families had voluntarily approached the party leaders to “pull out” of Sayajipura, soured by the stiff opposition from locals to their relocation there. Dangar said, “The residents came to us to tell us they want to withdraw. We supported their request and asked them to submitan applicationto the VMC Commissioner and giveus four locations in Muslim neighbourhoods as alternative relocation. They came up with Tandalja, Gorwa and a few other names. It will not be possible to relocate them to Kalyannagar as the Vishwamitri Riverfront projectis coming up there. We have assured them that the Mayor will take up the issue for them.”