Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray’s first act, to scrap the Metro shed project at Mumbai’s Aarey, for which his predecessor Devendra Fadnavis had 3,000 trees cut in the face of intense protests, should be lauded. Also praiseworthy is the government’s move to withdraw cases against social and environmental activists who were thrown into jail by its predecessor for seeking to block the building of the Metro shed, arguing that the facility be moved to a place where tree-felling won’t be required. The Thackeray government has also withdrawn cases against activists who opposed the setting up of the Nanar oil refinery on the Ratnagiri coast.
The CM’s outlook offers a refreshing contrast to that of his predecessor who, in line with the BJP-RSS’s thinking, appeared harsh in tackling social activists unless affiliated to NGOs of the religio-political kind of the majority community.
It’s to be seen if the new CM offers a liberal face in relation to all sections of society, including political rivals, unless they are involved in violent crimes.
Congress and NCP leaders in Maharashtra have urged the chief minister to withdraw criminal cases against dalits in the Bhima Koregaon fracas of January 1 last year in the Pune area. We hope he will. We hope that he will further withdraw the so-called Elgar Parishad cases of the previous day against some of the country’s leading intellectuals.
The earlier government had shamefully declared professors, lawyers, and public-minded citizens, who have taken up the cause of the poorest Indians in a sustained fashion over the years, as “urban Naxals”, and put them behind bars under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. A retired Supreme Court judge from Maharashtra was associated with the Elgar Parishad, and there was nothing unlawful about it.