Delhi: Thousands Evicted From Tughlakabad Without Rehabilitation
The ongoing Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) demolition drive in south Delhi’s Tughlakabad area has left thousands homeless. The drive, organised with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) joint efforts, started on April 30 and would continue till May 3.
The Delhi High Court (HC) had asked the ASI in February to remove unauthorised construction and encroachers from the “public land” following a Supreme Court order in 2016 directing the ASI to stop land grabbing and encroachment in Tughlakabad.
Approximately, 1,000 houses are being razed amid a heavy police presence. According to the Majdoor Awaas Sangharsh Samiti, around 5,000 families have been affected and nearly 20,000 residents rendered homeless.
Heavy Police Presence in the Area
It was heart-wrenching as the residents watched their homes being bulldozed one after another by JCBs with their belongings piled up outside on Monday. As houses were being demolished, crying and screaming residents confronted the police demanding rehabilitation and finally dispersed as the cops used force.
Despite the police preventing the media from speaking to the affected families, Newsclick managed to talk with a few of them.
Kumkum Kumari, interrupted several times by the police while speaking to Newsclick, is seven months pregnant and has been staying at Bengali Mohalla for the last 17 years. “My father, a labourer, spent his life savings constructing the house. My husband is a security guard,” she said while worrying about where her family would go as heavy rainfall lashed parts of Delhi-NCR.
Almost all the families Newsclick spoke to are migrants, primarily from West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Kumkum’s plight highlights the vulnerability and the lack of social security of migrant workers.
Sharing his experience of buying land in the area, Ramesh Sharma, a migrant from Bihar who settled there around six years ago, alleged a “nexus between the police, ASI officials and the local politician in allowing illegal settlements”.
“Unaware that the plot was illegal, I bought it from a local property dealer and paid the police and ASI officials occasionally. I paid Rs 80,000 for my 50 gaj land. Today, the same cops are throwing me and my family out of our home,” alleged Sharma, employed at a private factory for a mere salary of Rs 15,000 per month.
The residents are being evicted without rehabilitation. Dev Ratan (62), who settled seven years ago, was notified in January. On April 30, hundreds of cops and 10 JCBs entered the area without warning, he alleged. The ASI and DDA had no rehabilitation policy despite the HC stressing the importance of providing dignified resettlement to every affected citizen in Sudama Singh & Others vs Government of Delhi.
Most pesonal belongings lost in the debris, alleg residents
Samiti convener Nirmal Gorana criticised the government and the court’s “lack of concern for the working-class families” affected by the eviction. He had appealed to the Supreme Court for a stay on the demolition but withdrew it on Monday. However, the Samiti is fighting a case for rehabilitation in court on behalf of the residents.
“Evicting thousands of citizens from their houses violates basic human rights. In Delhi alone, approximately 28,000 houses are vacant. Why can’t the government shift these evicted families there? It shows neither the Centre nor the Delhi government cares about the working class,” Gorana said.
He also questioned the HC’s intention. “The same court that had upheld the rights of such citizens in Sudama Singh & Others vs Government of Delhi is now allowing the government to demolish homes and displace migrant families.”
The residents and the Samiti will organise a mass protest at Jantar Mantar on Wednesday.
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