//Demolition of 1,356 illegal shrines in Mumbai begins

Demolition of 1,356 illegal shrines in Mumbai begins

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

Mumbai – Following a 2003 Mumbai High Court order, the city’s civic authorities Thursday began a drive to demolish hundreds of shrines of various faiths illegally constructed along congested roads.

The demolition drive was being carried out under the security cover of plainclothes policemen. Caretakers of the 1,356 illegal shrines of various faiths had already been notified in 2003 about the proposed demolition.

The demolition drive is part of the city administration’s preparations for the monsoon rains that are expected to start in the state by June 10.

The authorities, however, would like to avoid any confrontation with worshippers of these shrines after a similar drive in Gujarat’s Vadodara city last month led to violent protests and communal skirmishes, killing six people.

‘According to the circular, all shrines built before 1964 are considered legal. Only structures that hamper pedestrian or vehicular traffic are to be removed,’ said an official of the Brihamnmumbai Municipal Corporation.

‘No shrine is to be demolished before sunrise or after sunset. Idols are not damaged but handed over to responsible citizens,’ the official added.

The court order was passed following a petition made by an NGO, the Janhit Manch, alleging that more than 600 illegal shrines had come up in violation of rules.