HYDERABAD: Just two days into the New Year, as a team of government officials were about to arrive at the Naya Quila land area near Golconda for a second round of survey regarding a land dispute between activists and the Hyderabad Golf Association (HGA), the police took around 20 protestors into preventive custody. They were charged with making provocative speeches and creating a communally charged atmosphere at the site.
But in a set of videos released by the activists on Monday, contractors for HGA are seen haggling with the survey officials, while police personnel chose not to take any action against them. This handling of the sensitive situation has drawn flak from the civil society, as well as from the custodians of a 450-year old mosque, which is at the centre of the controversy.
“We have been blamed for passing inflammatory comments and hiding a communal agenda in our protests. If so, we ask the the government, HGA and the police officials to come and prove the accusations. We were just protesting against the illegal construction underway at the site by the HGA, in a democratic manner. It is sad to see all this happening right under the nose of the officials. But since powerful people of the HGA are involved in the same, only we were arrested”, explained Dr Jasveen Jairath of Save Our Urban Lakes (SOUL), the organisation that’s spearheading the campaign.
In the videos shown, police could be seen arresting the protestors and demolishing their tent, while the tent housing the HGA officials and contractors lay untouched. “How can the HGA contractors who are an interested party in the alleged case, even take part in the survey, while the civil society is left out? Not just that, they could be seen arguing with the officials trying to influence the team which is against the law”, Jasveen Jairath said. “Just because we support a heritage structure which is related to a religion does not make us communal. We are only interested in protecting India’s history,” she added.
Scientist and environmentalist Dr PM Bhargava described the situation as unfortunate. “I remember being part of India’s independence struggle. There was more freedom for protest then, it would seem now. Today it feels like the British have been replaced by a group of corrupt Indians.” He further emphasised how the British formed the ASI so as to protect India’s heritage monuments. “They were sensitive to our culture. But sadly it seems we as Indians do not care.”
To “dispel the myth” that HGA’s initiative was aimed at developing a world class golf course in an otherwise waste land, M Vedakumar of the Forum for Better Hyderabad, said that it was the government’s responsibility to develop the area and ban encroachments.
Md Afzal, president of the Mustafa Khan Masjid, added, “Golconda is already world famous and remains a name among international heritage tourist sites. Why do we need to make it more international through a golf course? The government should rather look to develop the heritage monument.”