On June 24, thousands of protesters marched to the CIDCO headquarters in Belapur, Navi Mumbai and pressed their demand to name the upcoming Navi Mumbai International Airport after local hero DB Patil.

The Navi Mumbai International Airport, said to be one of the largest greenfield airport projects in the world, is being built in Panvel. The airport, which is aimed at easing congestion at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, was proposed to be named after Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray.

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On Wednesday (June 29), the cabinet meeting chaired by the beleaguered Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray approved the naming of upcoming Navi Mumbai international airport after farmer leader late DB Patil.

For almost a year, large protests had been held in Navi Mumbai, Raigad, Thane, and Palghar districts against a proposal to name the Navi Mumbai airport after Thackeray.

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In December 2020, Maharashtra Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, the leader of the ongoing rebellion against Shiv Sena chief and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, had written to the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) asking it to propose that the airport be named after Bal Thackeray. CIDCO followed through on Shinde’s letter.

However, local people, political leaders had, from the very beginning, agreed that the airport would be named after DB Patil — and the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government was aware of this. And yet, the government had, suddenly and without consulting local people, decided to name the airport after Thackeray.

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Who was DP Patil?

Dinkar Balu Patil, also known as DB Patil, was born in Jasai, a village in the Uran taluka of Raigad district. He was associated with the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP).

Born into a farmer’s family, Patil did his LLB in 1951 and, a year later, won an election to the Kolaba district local board. He then represented Panvel in the Maharashtra Assembly for five terms between 1957 and 1980.

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He was also the MP from Kolaba in 1977 and 1984, as well as a member of the Legislative Council in 1992. He was Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly from 1972 to 1977, and then again in 1982-83.

In 1975, he was arrested during the Emergency.

Patil led several protests for farmers and land owners in Panvel district when CIDCO acquired land in the area in the 1970s and 1980s. During a massive protest in 1984, four farmers were killed, which eventually forced the state government to bring in the 12.5 per cent developed land scheme for local farmers, which is now applicable across the state.

The farmer’s leader had also fought for the villagers of the Uran area when their land was acquired for Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), and led the protest even while he was in an ambulance at the age of 86. Patil died in 2012 at the age of 87.