New Delhi: Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena on Tuesday directed authorities to stop an "anti-encroachment drive" in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park area, five days after the DDA began the exercise that triggered protests from many local residents and a political slugfest in the national capital.
The Delhi High Court, meanwhile, directed the authorities to maintain status quo till February 16 on various properties in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park area here, which have been identified to be demolished as part of the 'anti-encroachment' drive.
The high court further asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to state its stand on a batch of petitions challenging the action and also seeking a bar on the demolition till a fresh "demarcation report" is prepared.
The drive had come a month ahead of a proposed G20 meeting at the park in south Delhi, which according to the Delhi Development Authority, has about 55 monuments under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India, state archeological department and the DDA.
The Delhi government has meanwhile pulled up the district magistrate (south) for alleged "inaction" related to the demolition drive and directed him again to carry out fresh demarcation in the area.
Revenue Minister Kailash Gahlot had directed the DM (south) last week to carry out fresh demarcation of "disputed" area after the affected residents alleged that the demarcation exercise was done keeping them in the dark.
In an order issued by Gahlot on Tuesday, it was alleged that DM (south) neither complied with the direction for fresh demarcation nor asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to stop the ongoing demolition exercise.
The copy of the order has been sent to DDA vice chairman Subhasish Panda reiterating that the demolition drive cannot be carried out without demarcation.
While the drive continued for the fifth consecutive day, many local residents collected their belongings and contemplated an uncertain future for their families.
As the day wore out, Saxena directed the DDA to stop the ongoing drive till further instructions, according to Raj Niwas officials.
Following Saxena's order, senior AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj tweeted: "What has happened today is the victory of AAP and people of Delhi. BJP had lately realised that their LG saab is making them unpopular every passing day."
The Delhi Lt Governor is also the chairman of the DDA.
The decision came after a delegation of local residents met the LG and sought relief from the demolition drive, citing "anomalies" in demarcation of land carried out by the AAP government in 2021, they added.
"The LG directed the Vice Chairman, DDA, and the local administration to immediately stop the demolition drive and assured the residents that their grievances would be looked into and the anomalies, as pointed out by them, would be examined," an official said.
The LG, however, reiterated that while no action will be taken against legal and rightful occupants "any illegal encroachment or unauthorized occupation surrounding the heritage monuments will be removed forthwith, in pursuance of the orders of the High Court".
"Having heard the grievances of the residents at length, the LG assured the residents that no injustice will be done to any rightful owner of land. He said the residents' complaints will be thoroughly examined and if any misdeed on part of any official was found, strict action will be taken against the erring officials," the official said.
Officials on Tuesday said the Delhi government has pulled up the district magistrate (south) for alleged "inaction" related to the demolition drive and directed him again to carry out fresh demarcation in the area.
South Delhi MP Ramesh Bidhuri said the BJP will work for rehabilitation of those whose houses have been demolished.
BJP leaders and affected residents of Mehrauli told the Lt Governor that most of the people have been settled there for three to four decades and they have registered houses and have also got bank loans to buy them, said a Delhi BJP statement.
They told the Lt. Governor that due to the negligence of the revenue department of the Delhi government which made wrong site maps, their houses are in danger today. Therefore, the Lt. Governor should give relief to them.
Delhi BJP working president Virendra Sachdeva alleged that the demolition in Mehrauli happened because of wrong demarcation by the revenue department of the Arvind Kejriwal government. The government did not protect the interests of the residents of Mehrauli in the Court, he charged.
The AAP on Monday had alleged that the DDA and LG Saxena were bulldozing people's homes in Mehrauli despite the city government cancelling the demarcation order.
AAP MLA Somnath Bharti had earlier urged the LG to stop the exercise and enforce the city government's order for fresh demarcation.
On Saturday, the Kejriwal government had asked the DDA to stop its anti-encroachment drive in Mehrauli, officials said.