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After Car Depot, Mumbai Metro may face another round of protests over cancellation of Christian cemetery for Metro Bhavan at Aarey

After a High Court order, the Maharashtra government had allotted land for Christian Cemetery in Aarey colony, but now govt wants to construct Metro Bhavan on that plot

With the Car Depot for Mumbai Metro in Aarey Colony in Mumbai finally set to become a reality after the High Court dismissed all petitions against cutting trees for the same and authorities already felling the trees, now the Metro project may face another controversy, that too in Aarey. The Maharashtra Government has proposed to set up the Metro Bhavan, from where all the operations of Mumbai Metro network will be controlled, at a location in Aarey Colony, and this may incorporate a plot of land earmarked for a burial ground for Christians.

Christian Community in Mumbai was demanding a burial place in Goregaon (E) and Kandivli (E) in Mumbai, as there is no cemetery for Christians in that vicinity and people have to travel to the western side for the burial of Christians. After an eight-year battle in court, in 2017 the Bombay High Court had ordered the  Maharashtra government to allot 5000 square meters of land for a Christian cemetery. On court’s order, the state government had said that a plot will be allotted at the Aarey Milk Colony in Goregaon (E). But as authorities didn’t allot the land as promised, the Christian groups had filed a contempt of court petition. After that, a plot of 5000 sqm was handed over to BMC by the Aarey Colony authorities in 2018, where the civic body was to construct a cemetery for Christians.

While BMC was working on the cemetery project, a new development occurred recently. On August 6, the state government issued a notification converting a plot of land in Aarey Colony from no development zone to residential zone, to pave the way for constructing the Metro Bhavan in the area. The proposed Metro Bhavan will occupy an area of 2.03 hectares, and it includes the plot allotted for the cemetery is also included in this plot. The notification issued by the Urban Development Ministry said, “part of bearing CTS no 589(A) of village Pahadi Goregaon (E) measuring about 5000 sq mt is reserved for cemetery and remaining land is proposed to be deleted from No Development Zone and is proposed to be included in Residential Zone and reserve it for Metro Bhavan and Metro Rail allied users.”

Activists opposing developments in the Aarey area and Christian organisations have sent objections against the move. According to reports, more than 50000 citizens have sent their objections. NGO Vanashakti, who had opposed the car depot project in Aarey, is also opposing the Metro Bhavan project, as it claims that the proposed 17-storey tower will harm the ecology of the area.

If the government goes ahead with cancellation of the plot for Christian Cemetery at Aarey and construction of the Metro Bhavan on that plot, it will face another round of protests from activists, this time joined by Christian organisations. It may be noted that the High Court had ordered allotment of land for the cemetery, and even slammed the government for the delay in doing so. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how the court rules if and when the case reaches the court.

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