Indore Vegetable Vendor Commits Suicide Over Mistaken Demolition Notice
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Flickr
Bhopal: A 50-year-old vegetable vendor allegedly committed suicide three days after the Indore district administration mistakenly put up a demolition notice on his house rather than of his murder-accused neighbours.
Harish Lalawat, a father of three, was a resident of Kesripura village, in Sanwer tehsil. The Sanwer Police found his body hanging from a tree almost a kilometre away from his home on Sunday morning.
“We found a one-page suicide note and Rs 500 cash in his possession,” a police officer told Newsclick. In the suicide note, addressed to Sanwer Police Station house officer, Lalawat named five villagers and accused them of culpable homicide.
“I am being threatened with demolition of my house. I was forced to commit suicide due to desperation. Responsible for my death...”, the note read.
The Sanwer Municipality demolition notice did not have the names of Lalawat or his children but of his neighbours on either side—Sunny Bairagi, Nilesh Bairagi, Golu Bairagi and his ‘accomplice’ Rajendra Kishore.
The Sanwer Municipality demolition notice, which did not have the names of Harish Lalawat or his children but of his neighbours on either side, asked the respondents to remove the ‘illegal construction’.
The four are accused of killing one Gurudutt Sawaliya (52), who stayed across the street, over suspicion of illicit relations with Sunny’s mother. They attacked Sawaliya with iron rods a day after Sunny spotted him entering his home in the afternoon when his mother was alone. He succumbed to injuries a day later.
Subsequently, the police pressed murder, attempted murder and other charges against five people and arrested them within
two days. “They killed Gurudutt on suspicion of illicit relations,” investigating officer Raju Chouhan told Newsclick.
Hours after the FIR, the deceased’s family demanded the demolition of the accused’s homes from the police. The municipality immediately affixed the demolition notice ‘mistakenly’ on Lalawat’s house since they share the same roof.
Lalawat and his two brothers had inherited the house from their father. He got the middle portion of the house, and his brothers sold their respective portions eight years ago and left.
Lalawat’s daughter Ranu (20) alleged that Sawaliya’s family had been pressuring her father to become a prime witness in the murder case or else they would force the district administration to demolish his house along with that of the accused.
“Gurudutt’s family threatened us with the demolition of our house to pressure my father to become the prime witness in the case. When he refused, they asked officials to put the notice on our house and threatened demolition if he did not agree,” she alleged.
The notice asked the respondents to remove the “illegal construction built without permission”, which is a “violation of the Madhya Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1961”, within 24 hours.
A panicked Lalawat complained to the tehsildar’s office and submitted his land registry papers on January 19 urging it to rectify the mistake and not demolish his house as he had a joint roof and walls with his neighbours.
The complaint Harish Lalawat sent to the tehsildar’s office on January 19.
“He was extremely disturbed by the demolition notice and feared our house would be demolished. He asked where we would live if the house were razed?” said his eldest son Aakash (23).
Aakash, employed with a shop that makes stickers for two- and four-wheelers, is also associated with the RSS charity organisation Sewa Bharti since 2009 and helped several people during the lockdown
“Gurudutt’s family was constantly traumatising him over the demolition notice. Fearing it, he used to stay at home,” Aakash added. He was jolted from sleep even by the sound of a car fearing it was a bulldozer, he further added.
A frustrated and jittery Lalawat left home on January 21. The police found his body hanging from a tree the next day, according to the family.
Though the notice asked the respondents to remove the “illegal construction” within 24 hours or else, Section 187/223 of the Act 1961 empowers the municipality to remove it, Sanwer subdivisional magistrate Ravi Shrivastava told Newsclick that the notice was served to “check the illegal properties of the accused, not for demolition”.
“The notice was served to check the illegal properties of the accused. But since the accused were on the run, we did not get the reply,” Shrivastava said. “A day after the notice was affixed, a man named Harish complained that it was put up on his house, he had nothing to do with and his house should not be demolished.”
When asked whether the houses of the accused will be demolished, he said, “The decision is pending as we did not get any reply from the respondents.” On Lalawat’s suicide, he said, “The police are investigating the case.”
Aakash, now the family’s sole breadwinner, was in tears. “I lost my father for nothing. Who is to be blamed for his death? The municipality, officials, the accused or villagers? We have been paying an EMI of Rs 15,000 and my father was the major contributor. I don’t know how we will manage?”
Aakash, who worked for Sewa Bharti for more than a decade, said, “They turned their back when I needed them most. They use and throw people.”
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