The issue of the closure of Bopkhel Road by the College of Military Engineering (CME) took a violent turn on Thursday as the villagers pelted stones and bricks during an agitation and police had to resort to lathi charge and use of tear gas to control the mob. At least 22 police personnel and 15 villagers were injured in the incident.
On May 13, The CME had closed the road connecting Bopkhel to Dapodi Road after the High Court ruled in favour of the institute in a petition filed against the closure of the road. Due to the road being closed, residents of Bopkhel area have to travel at least half an hour more on the alternate routes. A dispute over the closure of the road that connects Bopkhel village to Mumbai-Pune highway in Dapodi has been going on between the Defence authorities and villagers for the past 15 years.
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The issue took a violent turn on Thursday after a large number of villagers gathered at the closed gate to stage a protest. The defence authorities had informed the police, following which local police were deployed at the spot. As police kept making repeated appeals to people to maintain peace during the protest, around noon, the villagers tried to break open the door and after police resisted they started pelting stones, bricks and broken glass at them. The mob damaged police vehicles, including two cars and a bus.
Appeals by MLA Gautam Chabukswar, PCMC commissioner Rajiv Jadhav and senior police officer to maintain peace were in vain and the mob continued to pelt stones.
Deputy commissioner of police (Zone III) Basavraj Teli said, “We had to resort to lathi charge and fire tear gas shells after the mob turned extremely violent. At least 22 police personnel and 15 villagers sustained injuries. The situation was brought under control in the evening.”
A CME press release issued through the Defence PRO said, “All the facts regarding availability of access, land records and security-related implications of the Defence forces were considered by the High Court, after which an order was passed on April 21, inter-alia stating that ‘no road be constructed or no right of way can be granted to anyone to pass through the land in possession of CME and access through CME by public will compromise its security.’ In accordance with the policy of MoD on the subject and in compliance with the order passed by the HC, the road was closed to general public on May 13. The same notwithstanding, public is being allowed to use the roads in case of emergencies (medical, etc) on humanitarian grounds.”
A CME officer said, “We had informed the local police and they handled the situation well. None of our men was injured nor did we have to use any force.”