A Gurgaon municipal councillor fighting for the protection of the Aravali mountain range, which straddles the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi, was on 15 May allegedly beaten, dragged by her hair and later arrested by the police for preventing the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) from carrying out a demolition drive at Fatehpur Jharsa in the Sector 47 of Gurgaon.
Nisha Singh, the councilor, and nine other women were charged with attempt to murder (Section 307 of IPC), rioting and making a provocative speech. According to her husband Bhupender Singh, Nisha went to the area after she got a call from a villager who alerted her about the demolition drive. “She (Nisha) was filming the police action on her mobile phone and that is why she was attacked,” Bhupender told TEHELKA. “She was beaten, kicked and dragged by her hair.”
Bhupender alleges that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. “The HUDA is trying to acquire the land and hence was seeking to remove the villagers who mostly work as labourers and domestic help.” Nisha Singh was produced before a magistrate on Saturday before being sent to the Bhondsi jail. Nisha, who quit her job with Google to join politics, is a graduate of the London School of Economics. She joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) last year.
Recently, Nisha had filed a petition to the Haryana government seeking a stop to illegal mining in the Aravalis and also to make Gurgaon and Faridabad ecologically smart cities. According to her petition, the Aravalis provide critical ecosystem services including groundwater recharge and wildlife habitat.
The forest cover in Haryana is only 3.59 per cent, the second lowest in India. Yet, the bulk of forest cover in the Aravalis is still not considered a forest in spite of the Supreme Court orders. (In 2009, the apex court had extended the ban on mining in about a 450 square kilometer area of the Aravalis, across Faridabad, Gurgaon and Mewat districts of Haryana. In Gurgaon district, the Aravalis occupy approximately a 100-odd sq km area.)
The Aravalis have been vulnerable to indiscriminate mining, as a recent TEHELKA investigation in Rajsamand district of Rajasthan revealed. It was found that some mining companies had extended their quarrying activity beyond the areas leased to them, in violation of rules. And facing the brunt of it all were the locals. Until 1980, there were only nine quarries in the district but in the past three-and a half decades, their number has almost touched 400. Unchecked quarrying has resulted in the reduction of green cover by more than 90 per cent and depletion of groundwater, too.