Satyapal Singh, distraught and disoriented, looks continuously at the wreckage of his demolished home in Delhi’s Naseerpur village. A summary look at the site suggests that the demolition was carried out abruptly as many essentials are still lying under the wreckage.
Singh alleged that his home was demolished without any prior notice by the officials of Delhi Government and other dalit families in the locality, too, face an imminent demolition and eviction as successive governments do not want to follow the directions of Delhi High Court prohibiting authorities from taking any coercive action.
He maintained that several hundred landless families including his own in the national capital territory of Delhi were allotted residential and agricultural land in the 1970s and 1980s under section 74(4) Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, to implement the 20-point programme of Indira Gandhi government, primarily focused at eradicating poverty. Initially, the duty of identification of landless families was entrusted with the Gaon Sabha/Gram Sabha.
However, the scenario changed when the Delhi Development Authority acquired the adjoining land for the development of Dwarka sub-city without proper demarcation. When the residents complained about the acquisition, the Delhi High Court noted that the “possession of the accused in the aforesaid land in question has been established and protected by the order of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi placed on record. Thus, there is no question of criminal trespass being committed by the accused in the land which is in his possession. Thus, it appears that DDA has without regard to the aforesaid order passed by the High Court of Delhi, initiated proceedings against the accused who is well within the rights to retain the possession of the same”.
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Singh added that the HC issued advisories to concerned police officials to protect the families against intimidation and demolition by the Delhi Government and DDA officials. However, he said, “I was taken by local police officers to the police station in the morning of 25.6.2021 on some pretext. Later, I was told that my house has been razed and they did not even give me enough time to vacate it. As a result, much of the essentials including utensils, beds were completely destroyed.”
He added, “For this land, I dedicated all my resources. I was running a restaurant. I closed it to save my money. But it seems that everyone is turning into my enemy due to this land. When I reminded the SHO about the high court directives, he replied that he did not know how to read! I have begun to realise that nobody likes a dalit millionaire.”
Chhatar Singh, another dalit resident of the area, told NewsClick that their families have been left in the lurch as they kept struggling for their land and are now facing eviction threats. “After a meeting of Director (Panchayati Raj) and Gram Pradhan, my family was allotted an acre land for agricultural purposes on 19.2.1974. I still remember the days when the land remained barren and infertile. It was our hard labour for years that turned this land fertile. As the city grew and the land gathered importance, the officials began their game and are now terming us land grabbers on our own land.”
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He further added, “My daughter-in-law is illiterate and widow as my son expired two years ago. I am 67-year-old. Please tell me where should I go? What can I do if the law abiding officers become violators of the law and deprive the weak from their rights.”
When asked about why they did not approached the court as the eviction threats were contemptuous of Delhi High Court order, he replied, “The lawyers are demanding hefty fee and we cannot afford it!”
Paras Tyagi, founder of the Centre for Youth,Culture, Law and Environment, who has been following similar cases across Delhi, told NewsClick that it was baffling to note that the possession of land could be transferred to a government department when the Delhi High Court has directed that no action should be taken until the ownership question is settled.
He said, “We hear that landless families are being persecuted in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh but this is happening in the national capital of the country where the landless have been completely silenced through an active nexus of politicians and government officers. How could DDA transfer the land to the Directorate of Education when another person is already in possession and carrying all relevant documents of ownership. The government should make it clear why these families did not get the ownership rights when it made resolutions in the Assembly that the ownership would be given to the landless.”
NewsClick approached Vinay Kaushik, Deputy Director (Education), about the proposed building of a school on land. He said that he has been transferred out of the district and cannot comment on the issue. SDM Pankaj Gupta and MLA Vinay Mishra did not answer any calls despite repeated attempts.