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Gurugram: Homeless Families Awaiting Justice ‘Attacked’ by Municipal Officials

Ronak Chhabra |
The residents of Shyam Jha Basti continue to stay put after it was demolished last month by the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) for encroaching upon government land.
Gurugram: Homeless Families Awaiting Justice

Image of the injured old lady, who is a resident at Shyam Jha Basti.

Days after almost 600 families were rendered homeless in Gurugram’s Sikanderpur following a demolition drive, there are allegations against municipal officials of attacking residents while clearing the debris.

At least two residents were injured on Thursday when they demanded that officials not clear the remaining shanties, following which they were “physically attacked” by municipal officers, the residents alleged.

A JCB tractor – commonly used to collect heavy items – almost ran over an old lady who was protesting against the clearing of the rubble of her demolished house. Another man had his back broken in a brawl with officials for similar reasons.

“Both were severely injured and were taken to the hospital last night,” Rakesh Kumar, a local resident told NewsClick. “Municipal officials have been turning up on a daily basis to drive us out from here. We have been living here for 25 to 30 years now. Where do we find a place all of a sudden?” he asked.

The residents continue to stay put – under torn tarpaulins not far away from their razed shanties – at what they refer to as Shyam Jha Basti, hoping to be served justice. The basti, which went by the same name for years, was demolished last month for encroaching upon government land, where a biodiversity park is allegedly set to be inaugurated soon.

Requiring land to be cleared for the same, officials at the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) have been facing the anger of the aggrieved residents. In return, mild baton charges were used against them on multiple occasions.

“They want us gone from here. But, even after days have passed, we have not been given any other option to stay in. They (municipal officials) have been using every possible way to push us out from here, even in difficult times when there is a risk of infection (by COVID-19),” Kumar said.

NewsClick called Hari Om Attri, Joint Commissioner, MCG, for a comment on multiple occasions, but there was no response.

On August 5, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which is looking into the alleged human rights violation in the matter, was urged to provide protection to the residents, who now fear losing their life, after having lost their homes earlier.

“Please provide protection and help to the poor and needy people of Shyam Jha Basti… please take appropriate action and save the peoples’ lives,” said the letter addressed to NHRC’s chairperson by human rights activist Ravi Kumar, on behalf of the basti dwellers.

Speaking to NewsClick, he called it a “criminal act” by officials of a civil organisation “which has no right to do so.”

“To carry out a demolition drive is one thing, but to engage in violence is completely against the law. The NHRC must ensure that the lives of the poor is protected,” Kumar said. He had approached the commission alleging human rights violations of the residents of the basti, who had not been provided with any rehabilitation after the destruction of their homes.

The human rights watchdog took cognisance of the matter and demanded that the Chief Secretary, Haryana, submits a report in the matter by September 6.

NewsClick tried to reach out to the NHRC officer looking into the matter. He declined to offer any comment, and said he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Kumar also alleged that following the violence, the police did not help on Thursday night when the residents sought to register an FIR (First Information Report) against the municipal officials.

A.J. Malik, SHO, DLH Phase-I, who had been deputed to the said police station on Friday morning, told NewsClick that the concerns of the residents will be recorded. An FIR will be registered if the victims chose to do so, he added.

Meanwhile, a section of the residents have also moved court, demanding a stay on the eviction drive altogether. Their next hearing in the matter is scheduled for August 10.

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