In a first in Rajkot, the state government has imposed Disturbed Areas Act, 1991 in 28 residential societies — all in Rajkot West, the Assembly constituency of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani — citing incidents of “rioting” and “mob violence”.
The move that comes ahead of the local body elections in the state, covers areas, including the posh Chhotunagar, Nehrunagar, Subhasnagar, Racecourse Park, Sinchay Nagar and Saurabh Society, in Ward No. 2 of the Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC).
The state revenue department, in a notification dated January 13, extended the Disturbed Areas Act to the societies between Raiya Road and Airport Road, parts of Gandhigram area, Bajrangwadi and Bhomeshwar Plot. Racecourse Park, which is contiguous with Marutinagar — where late chief minister Keshubhai Patel stayed — is also among the societies where the Act has been imposed.
The government notification comes weeks after Rajkot collector sent a proposal on this. “We sent the proposal last month following applications and representations from residents of those societies. It has been going on for a while… So, opinions were taken from police and other departments concerned… and were sent to the government… ultimately, it was the government’s decision,” Remya Mohan, district collector of Rajkot, told The Indian Express on Friday.
A property owner in these 28 societies as well as within 500-metre radius of these societies will have to seek permission from the district collector to sell his/her property. “The objective is to protect the people who have made representations,” the collector said.
These societies fall in the jurisdiction of Gandhigram police station and the notification issued by the revenue department cited mob violence and rioting as reasons for imposition of the law for five years.
“Whereas the Government of Gujarat having regard to the intensity and duration of riots and violence of mob in respect of the areas of the Rajkot City as specified in the schedule annexed hereto, is of the opinion that public order in the said areas was disturbed for a substantial period by reason of riots of violence of mob,” stated the notification issued under sub-section (l) of section 3 of the Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provision for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act, l99l.
Societies such as Nehrunagar, Subhasnagar, Bajrangwadi, etc., have Muslim residents in significant numbers. The imposition of the act comes weeks ahead of the election to the RMC. Ward No. 2 has traditionally been a BJP stronghold and former deputy mayor Dr Darshita Shah was among the four BJP winners from this ward in the previous election in 2015.
Welcoming the move, Kamlesh Mirani, president of Rajkot city unit of the BJP, said, “People of a particular community have either been aggressively purchasing property or forcing original occupants to vacate them. People of these societies have often represented their problems to the government. Police commissioner also gets complaints about people being forced out of their homes. This is the reason behind the decision and I welcome it… it must not have come on the basis of a single application.”
Congress, on the other hand, highlighted that all the societies were part of CM Rupani’s constituency. “This Act has been imposed in Rajkot city just a week to go for RMC election process to begin… What violence has happened over the past one year to warrant imposition of this act?… If the CM can’t ensure peace in his own constituency, what can others in other parts of the state expect from him? The CM should step down for failing to ensure law and order,” Ashok Dangar, president of Rajkot city unit of Congress, said.
Some residents welcomed the government move. “Till a decade ago, my society was considered a posh area. Later, people following other faith started purchasing homes in our locality and Hindus started selling their properties. At one point, my home was surrounded by residents following the other faith. It was difficult to adjust to their way of life and eventually, I had to sell my house,” said a person who sold his house in Yogeshwar Park and moved to another locality.