Delhi: Multiple Houses Demolished in Kasturba Nagar Before Supreme Court Ordered a Week's Stay
In this place lived 16 families of the same house who are now all on the streets
Delhi: On May 22, 2023, since early morning, the police started arriving at Delhi's Kasturba Nagar, and barricades were put in place. Section 144 notice was imposed, and a demolition drive was supposed to begin at 10 am, per the locals.
This was not the first time the Kasturba Nagar area had seen demolitions, and the families were standing against the drives on the streets. In August 2022, the residents said that a similar notice was stickered on their walls, and they were asked to vacate their houses urgently. A similar notice was also stuck earlier this year, and the residents this time bought some time from the Supreme Court.
A notice declaring that between 22nd to 24th May, a demolition drive would be conducted
However, the older residents of the area say they have been hearing the same tale of their houses being broken for a long time. The demolition in the area is happening as the DDA (Delhi Development Authority) wants to construct a road, which has been ongoing since 2021. Some of the houses were demolished earlier, and the locals claim that those people whose houses were demolished were settled in Dwarka, and their primary concern is why the same was not being done for them.
After passing a few police barricades and a bunch of houses saved as the Supreme Court gave the residents seven days to vacate their houses, NewsClick found a 90-year-old man sitting in the middle, crying his heart out while the others surrounding him tried to calm him down. He ranted, pleaded with whoever he saw for help, and seemed completely helpless.
"I was very young when I came to Delhi due to partition and built my whole life here. My kids were born here, and I worked in the Indian Railways when I started constructing this house. As the years passed, today, 16 families of my kids and their kids resided here, and now all we have is this rubble to stare at and cry. We lost everything," narrated the 90-year-old who claims to have built the house in 1957.
One of his daughters-in-law, Jaswant Kaur, came crying to him while her husband just stood there and could not speak a word. The 50-year-old man was so shunned that he could give no reaction but silence. Ultimately, Jaswant Kaur decided to speak.
Jaswant Kaur along with her other relatives sitting in the broken house
"Our families did not deserve this. One of my grandsons, who is only three, has health problems. He does not have anything but milk. Where do I get his milk from now? He kept staring at me, crying, looking at the bulldozer ruining all we had, and asking why this was happening. How do I answer him? If given a space to live, we would not regret our houses dropping to debris."
When asked about the rented houses and whether they had already shifted to a house, Jaswant Kaur said," We do have a rented house which costs us Rs 10,000. We cannot afford that amount. There is no ventilation in that house and no proper space for our whole family to adjust."
Adjacent to Jaswant Kaur and her whole family's house was another family that came to India's rescue after partition. Even her story was the same.
Sukhwinder Kaur, whose husband had built the house, sat with a pale face, numb from what she had witnessed this morning. The whole of her house was not broken. When half of it was broken, SC's order came, and the drive stopped. But the house was no more in a condition to live.
"My husband is old and might die if he hears what has happened here. We have not told him anything. As soon as we realised they would bulldoze our house, we took him to a relative's place. He kept asking why the sudden plan, but all I could tell the pale man was that there was work in our house and we would have to wait there in the meantime."
Beside her house was her distant relative. The two brothers who had built a small two-storey house had nothing else they could call an asset. They both drive e-rickshaws on rent, and their late father used to drive an auto rickshaw too. The elder son has two kids; the elder daughter is 17, while the younger son is 15. Parvinder (17) just gave her board exams and was planning on pursuing law as her career option.
The two 17-year-old and 15-year-old kids whose dad runs an e-rickshaw are now unsure of their future.
She questions," What is the use of the government making false claims like 'beti bachao beti padhao' when they have literally left us here to die? What will my parents do? Will they focus on the household expenses, arrange a place to stay, or make me study ahead?"
Although only 15, the younger kid understands the situation and tries to accept the darker times ahead of them. Beyond the boundary of these houses lie the well-built houses of the rich.
"Doesn't their house come under demolition? Is their house not illegal? "he asked.
These families currently have no place to go to. Parvinder Kaur's family, as of now, has kept all their belongings in one of their neighbour's places while they try to find a house for rent that would fit their budget. The same is being done by the other families of the area, most of whom are underprivileged financially.
The neighbours who sat outside their house and wondered about their fate spoke to NewsClick. Although they are hopeful about something coming to their rescue again, the line of hope has faded bit by bit today as they saw the world of their neighbours shatter.
Barkha's(the neighbor) ancestral house where she currently lives and cannot decide whether to leave or not
Barkha, who lives besides those whose houses were broken, spoke with NewsClick.
"I know the stay is only for a week, but I do not think we can leave this house. I have tried speaking about this with my husband, but he says we are not leaving until anything happens. Today I will convince him to leave, but I do not think he will agree; it is our ancestral home."
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