Meerut: The demolition of a shopping complex in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday morning killed four members of a family and injured one person, triggering protests and tension in the area. According to information, some people were apparently still inside the building when the Cantonment Board, with assistance of the police, began the drive to raze the structure. Four others, including a home guard, were injured in the demolition process, which evoked sharp protests from locals, who downed shutters in the city’s main markets.
The four deceased are Deepak Sharma, Aakash, Lavkush and Bittu. A home guard named Omveer is reported to have received severe injuries. An FIR has been lodged at Sadar Bazar Police Station against six people, including Cantonment Board officials. While one Cantonment Board official named Anuj Singh was arrested by evening, the police said raids are on to nab the others named in the FIR.
Cantonment Board CEO Rajeev Srivasta did not respond to phone calls for a comment on the issue. “This is a serious issue and we will take strong action (against those responsible),” Range DIG Lakshmi Singh told a restive crowd which held demonstrations outside the Cantonment Board office and the local police station demanding immediate arrest of the culprits.
In April, the Allahabad High Court had issued directives to demolish the mall and other buildings in the area. As many as 62 buildings and 22 shops and a mall had been built on a sprawling plot which the Board claims is its property.
According to Meerut Cantonment Board’s Assistant Engineer, Piyush Gautam, a prior notice was sent to the occupants to vacate the “illegally built” building. “The area was marked for demolition, and it was decided (to start the work at) 3 am. We gave three more hours to the occupants to take out their belonging and began the demolition at 6 am,” a news agency report quoted Gautam as claiming.
Jitendra Sharma, brother of the deceased Deepak, however, denied that any notice was served to vacate. He said Deepak, along with several others, were sleeping inside the building when Cantonment Board officials razed the building. “It is a clear case of premeditated murder,” he said. Complainant Anand Agarwal, the builder, has claimed in the FIR that the Board officials had assured a delegation of traders that demolition process would not be undertaken, adding that the mall was eventually torn down without serving a notice.