Dahod remained tense on Sunday after locals clashed with authorities and pelted stones at them over demolition of a boundary wall of the Idgah Maidan Muslim Cemetery on the road to Godhra. Following the incident, 22 people have been held for rioting.
The wall, authorities said, was part of an encroachment and razed to facilitate extension of the road to ease traffic.However, a member of the Wakf board said that the authorities exceeded their brief as the matter was sub judice. The clash began when officials of the Dahod municipality, accompanied by those from the district administration and police, arrived at the Godhra road to bulldoze a green boundary wall leading to the cemetery.
The wall, authorities said, was pulled down as per a 2010 order of the Gujarat High Court. This came after a long-drawn legal battle with those in-charge of the cemetery which went in favour of the authorities.
District Collector M A Gandhi said, “The wall was an encroachment and in contravention of the Supreme Court verdict on conservation of water bodies as it also blocked the passage to the Chhab Talav, the historical water reservoir of Dahod. In 2008, the cemetery was informed that a road was proposed in the area to ease traffic. They went to court, challenging that the land belonged to them. Around three months ago, they extended their original boundary wall and covered the lake, despite the 2010 HC verdict directing the municipality to measure the land of the cemetery and construct a road in public interest.”
Gandhi said the wall was pulled down in the presence of police, after much resistance from locals, although the Wakf Board was taken into confidence.
“The members of the Wakf Board were present during the measurement a few months ago. However, the locals did not allow us to measure the land. Dahod has the most revenue generating bus depot. Extension of this road is essential… We will be able to divert about 50 per cent of the state transport buses plying between Madhya Pradesh and Ahmedabad once work on the road is complete.”
In the evening, the authorities started constructing the road under heavy police presence and several roads in town were cordoned off. Dahod S P Mayank Chavda said 22 persons were arrested for alleged rioting.
Ejaz Pathan, a committee member of the cemetery said, “For several years, the authorities have been eyeing our land. Several political leaders are interested in the area and they want to clear off the cemetery, to develop their estates. We will fight this in a higher court.”
Jainuddin Mehmoodmiya Qazi, an executive member of the Wakf Board, said the authorities had exceeded their brief as the case was sub judice. He said, “There is no court order that allows the authorities to bring down the wall or take away the land… We will move the court for contempt as we had already produced the order to maintain status quo to the police and the municipality.”