Bandra Agiary Wall Demolition Stopped

BMC defers demolition at Bandra agiary

As anger built up among residents and activists of Bandra (W) against the proposed widening of Hill Road, the civic administration on Friday called off its plan to acquire portions of land belonging to three religious institutions along the road.

Municipal commissioner Johny Joseph said he has deferred Saturday’s planned demolition of the porch of the 122-year-old Parsi Tata Agiary opposite the Bandra police station.

The BMC had planned to demolish the agiary’s portico as part of the controversy-ridden plan to widen Hill Road. Such was the panic within the Parsi community that an SMS campaign took off on Friday. “The Bandra Tata Agiary needs you. The BMC has sent a notice to the agiary trustees, informing them that the compound wall and portico of the agiary would be demolished on Saturday. All Parsis are requested to assemble at the agiary at 10 am to protest against the demolition of our community’s heritage,” read the SMS.

Residents and activists in the suburbs have also been campaigning to preserve portions of St Peter’s church in the St Stanislaus school compound and St Andrew’s church. The citizens’ Hill Road Committee, which will also be at the agiary on Saturday morning, has appealed to political parties. Committee member Ernest Fernandes said letters were faxed on Friday to Congress city chief Gurudas Kamat and BJP leader Gopinath Munde.

Vice-chairman of the state minorities commission Abraham Mathai on Friday visited Hill Road. He said he has faxed a letter to the commissioner, asking him to stay the widening until the issue is thrashed out.

On Friday, Munde called up Joseph and said that if the Crawford Market redevelopment could be stopped due to the presence of heritage structures, then why could the two churches and the agiary not be spared.

Joseph told TOI that no demolitions would be conducted on Saturday. “I have received representations from local residents, which we are considering. Our special projects director has already made an on-site visit and I’m awaiting his report. After that, we’ll decide if I need to make a personal visit,” he said.

BMC officials also sought to calm angry residents by saying that no heritage structure along Hill Road would be touched during the widening. However, portions of open spaces within all premises meant to be acquired for the plan would be taken over, the officials said.

“The demolition notices were issued a long time ago, no fresh notices have been issued. We are acquiring setback areas (portions meant for the widened road) only where they are available,” Joseph said. The local ward office had earlier issued notices to certain buildings on Hill Road.

S Vishwanath, BMC director, engineering and special projects, added, “We have already assured the residents that we will not be touching any of the old structures and all we can say is that they must believe us.”

The BMC officials also said that the graves, cross and the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at St Andrew’s church would not be affected by the road widening. They said the new road line would skirt around these areas.

“Similarly, St Peter’s church authorities were assured that the church building would not be touched and we would leave space between the church and wall so people can walk around the church. But the open space, such as a portion of the ground, will be acquired,” said another civic source.

MUMBAI: As anger built up among residents and activists of Bandra (W) against the proposed widening of Hill Road, the civic administration on Friday called off its plan to acquire portions of land belonging to three religious institutions along the road.

Municipal commissioner Johny Joseph said he has deferred Saturday’s planned demolition of the porch of the 122-year-old Parsi Tata Agiary opposite the Bandra police station.

The BMC had planned to demolish the agiary’s portico as part of the controversy-ridden plan to widen Hill Road. Such was the panic within the Parsi community that an SMS campaign took off on Friday. “The Bandra Tata Agiary needs you. The BMC has sent a notice to the agiary trustees, informing them that the compound wall and portico of the agiary would be demolished on Saturday. All Parsis are requested to assemble at the agiary at 10 am to protest against the demolition of our community’s heritage,” read the SMS.

Residents and activists in the suburbs have also been campaigning to preserve portions of St Peter’s church in the St Stanislaus school compound and St Andrew’s church. The citizens’ Hill Road Committee, which will also be at the agiary on Saturday morning, has appealed to political parties. Committee member Ernest Fernandes said letters were faxed on Friday to Congress city chief Gurudas Kamat and BJP leader Gopinath Munde.

Vice-chairman of the state minorities commission Abraham Mathai on Friday visited Hill Road. He said he has faxed a letter to the commissioner, asking him to stay the widening until the issue is thrashed out.

On Friday, Munde called up Joseph and said that if the Crawford Market redevelopment could be stopped due to the presence of heritage structures, then why could the two churches and the agiary not be spared.

Joseph told TOI that no demolitions would be conducted on Saturday. “I have received representations from local residents, which we are considering. Our special projects director has already made an on-site visit and I’m awaiting his report. After that, we’ll decide if I need to make a personal visit,” he said.

BMC officials also sought to calm angry residents by saying that no heritage structure along Hill Road would be touched during the widening. However, portions of open spaces within all premises meant to be acquired for the plan would be taken over, the officials said.

“The demolition notices were issued a long time ago, no fresh notices have been issued. We are acquiring setback areas (portions meant for the widened road) only where they are available,” Joseph said. The local ward office had earlier issued notices to certain buildings on Hill Road.

S Vishwanath, BMC director, engineering and special projects, added, “We have already assured the residents that we will not be touching any of the old structures and all we can say is that they must believe us.”

The BMC officials also said that the graves, cross and the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at St Andrew’s church would not be affected by the road widening. They said the new road line would skirt around these areas.

“Similarly, St Peter’s church authorities were assured that the church building would not be touched and we would leave space between the church and wall so people can walk around the church. But the open space, such as a portion of the ground, will be acquired,” said another civic source.