Mumbai: Ahead of upcoming Maharashtra assembly election 2019, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday said that his government, if voted back to power, will “deal with the murderers of Aarey forest in the best possible manner”. His statement came amidst the ongoing protests by environmentalists against tree felling inside Mumbai’s Aarey Colony.

Further, he asserted that Aarey Colony, where over 1, 000 trees have already been axed, is the most important issue to him so far.

“The upcoming government will be our government and once our government comes into power once again, we will deal with the murderers of Aarey Forest in the best possible way we can,” Thackeray said.

“Aarey is the most important issue for me right now. Whatever is happening today, whatever was happening y’day & whatever will happen in future, I’ll take detailed & in-depth information of what the situation is & will speak firmly & directly on the issue,” he added.

What is the Aarey Colony issue about?

Since Friday night, trees are being axed at Mumbai’s Aarey Colony aka city’s ‘green lung’. Notably, the colony is spread over 13, 000 hectares and is said to have at least 5 lakh trees.

The flashpoint began Friday night when Mumbai Metro authorities began a tree cutting drive, just hours after the Bombay High Court turned down a petition to put a stay on the felling of trees to construct a Metro shed at the site. In the plea, the petitioners had alleged that nearly 2,600 trees will be axed to come up with the Metro shed.

Protesters gathered at the site after videos emerged on social media showing authorities cutting down the trees. They broke barricades erected at the site and raised anti-government slogans before being detained by the police.

Section-144 was also imposed Saturday morning after the Bombay High Court’s order.

Take a look at all the latest developments:

1) Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackery said that his government would take firm action against “murderers of Aarey forest” if voted back to power.

2) According to ANI, a total of 38 people have been arrested and 55 others detained so far for protesting against Aarey Forest tree felling.

3) Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi was on Saturday forcibly evicted by the police from the metro project site. She was detained later.

4) Bombay High Court refused to entertain urgent mentioning by activists to stay the ongoing tree cutting. Notably, a fresh plea was on Saturday moved by activists seeking a stay on the chopping of around 26oo trees in the colony for metro shed construction.

5) Defending the move to fell trees, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said, “Bombay HC has ruled that it’s not a forest. When the first Delhi metro station was to be constructed, 20-25 trees were to be cut, people had protested then too, but for each tree cut, five trees were planted.”

6) Congress’ Sanjay Nirupam attacked Shiv Sena, saying that the Saffron party “must stop its lip service against tree cutting in Aarey and tell Mumbaikars that they are helpless before BJP”.

7) Uddhav’s son Aaditya Thackeray also criticised the move. “Detaining citizens and arresting youth for standing with environment. So much for speaking about environment at the global level while we destroy ecosystems here in the middle of the night,” he tweeted.