As demolitions continue in Khori Village following orders by the Supreme Court to protect the green cover of the region, residents continue to struggle in their quest for alternative rehabilitation. Essential supplies of food and water remain restricted as an eerie atmosphere of fear prevails in the village and residents have alleged that they were lathi-charged after bringing up these basic issues
Earlier this morning, residents planned on congregating outside the village to bring up these issues with the administration. The residents claim they assembled on the sides of the road but were met with another brutal lathi-charge, injuring many and leading to the detention of over six persons.
Speaking to Newsclick, Jeetubhai, one of the residents who was present on the spot said: “Over a thousand people had gathered outside to speak with the department to say that we want rehabilitation first. We assembled on the side of the roads, not disturbing any traffic or movement. We did not move and demanded that we wanted to speak with the administration. Over six people have been detained, including Rubina, Rashid and Alam among others."
The crackdown has been ongoing ever since the order for eviction was issued on June 7. Recently, in a hearing on June 23, the Faridabad Municipal Corporation told the Supreme Court that they had cleared 74 acres out of a total 150 acres. Various litigants had complained that the arrangement for shelter, food and water have not been made for the people.
Despite the ongoing demolitions, the residents said that instances of police brutality continue.“We have lost everything; we are still being beaten up. They have taken away our homes and are now even restricting our movement, throwing away our food and not letting us bring in our own supplies. So many people have attempted to kill themselves over these things. The worst sufferers are pregnant women, who are just lying out in the open,” said Rekha, a resident of Khori village.
There are more than 5,000 pregnant and lactating women and over 20,000 minors in the settlement.
Activists alleged that relief workers were also being prevented from distributing food and water and that they were being threatened with arrests. Residents are even being prevented from going to a nearby medical store despite the fact that many have fallen sick from living out in the open during the Monsoon season amid the demolished ruins of their homes. Pregnant women are not being provided with a place to sit. The police has gone as far as to overturn containers in which food is being cooked for distribution.
For the past one month, the Haryana government has gone all out to ensure that the residents leave their dwellings and that protests are silenced. On June 11, many residents faced detention after sloganeering against the state government. On June 30, a mega panchayat was stalled and residents were lathi-charged for congregating and sharing their testimonies.
The basis for these evictions is forest conservation. In a recent piece for The Wire, environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta argued: “While 'no forest land can be used for non-forest purposes without the prior approval of the Central Government India’s law on forests does not prohibit forest land from being diverted for “non-forest” use – all this requires is the Centre’s “prior approval”, subject to the Union environment ministry’s satisfaction that no alternate non-forest land is available. But a closer look at the diversions approved by the environment ministry shows that large areas of forest land have indeed been diverted for activities that could have easily avoided the use of forest land."
Citing an example, he said that in Haryana itself, 395.4 ha of forest land ended up being diverted for non-forest purposes in 2020, about ten times the size of Khori.
While a rehabilitation policy has been announced, the conditions state that those with an annual income of up to three lakh rupees will be considered for an allotment. The plan also states that the name of the head of the family needs to be registered in the voter list of Badkhal Assembly constituency of Haryana as on January 1, 2021; the head of family is also required to have an identity card issued by the state of Haryana as on January 1, 2021; and if any member of the family has an electricity collection issued by the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN). However, alternative accommodation has not been set up by the government yet. Instead, residents are to be paid Rs 2,000 a month for six months to rent a house somewhere else.
Read More: Khori Village: Demolitions Continue Unabated, Residents Call Rehabilitation Policy a Cruel Joke