Bandra residents want BMC chief’s written promise

The Bandra Hill Road Citizen’s Committee movement to save old heritage structures, including the Tata Parsi Agiary, St Peter’s Church, St Stanislaus’ High School and St Andrew’s Church, from being partly demolished because of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) concretisation and road widening plan, has gathered further momentum.

After a peace march with 1,500 participants successfully stalled the demolition of the Agiary wall on Saturday, the committee now wants a written assurance from BMC Commissioner Johny Joseph, promising that the plans will be re-aligned and heritage structures will not be affected.

The BMC wants to convert the 60-feet western stretch of Hill Road into a 90-feet one to accommodate increasing traffic. This will affect the graveyards of the two churches, which are nearly 300 years old. It will also bite into the school campus and the Parsi Agiary compound.

“We told the commissioner that these structures are an integral part of Bandra, and he assured us that nothing will be touched,” said Shyama Kulkarni, chairperson of the H-west Ward Citizens’ Trust.

Despite Joseph’s assurance, the BMC served demolition notices to St Peter’s Church and St Stanislaus School on November 15. But the move had to be stalled due to vehement protests by locals. Joseph then arranged a site visit by BMC officials and project director S Vishvanath, to apprise them of the various problems.

Meanwhile, the BMC issued a demolition notice to the Parsi Agiary on November 23, prompting the committee to organise the peace march and demand a written promise from Jospeh.

The movement has now taken a political turn with residents complaining to Congress MP Gurudas Kamat and BJP leader Gopinath Munde. Munde visited the heritage structures on Saturday and requested Joseph to reconsider the move. Bandra MLA Baba Siddiqui made a similar request and has pledged to send a petition to the chief minister if his request goes unheeded. But residents are convinced that these are only political stunts. “It is only a pre-election move,” accused Kulkarni.

But Joseph chose to be tight-lipped about the issue. “I will consider any kind of re-alignment only after looking at Vishvanath’s report,” was all he had to say.