Four demolition drives later, the village of Khori in Haryana's Faridabad has witnessed the razing of over a thousand homes. The eviction drive that kicked off on July 14, has been ongoing since. It was halted for two days owing to the incessant rains in the national capital.
Those evicted are now finding themselves sleeping exposed to the elements or taking cover under plastic sheets. Many others are reporting sicknesses owing to the lack of food or water.
“We have been left to die; I stood under a shed the entire night as it rained. I had no option but to bring my entire family to a clinic and seek shelter there. I am running a high fever, my children have not eaten and we have nowhere to go,” said Manju one of the villagers who lost her home on one of the first days of the drive.
Over the period, Khori's residents have found themselves sleeping in autos, under plastic bags and temporary sheds.
A family spent the entire night in an auto.
“I was just waiting for the morning. I have spent all night getting drenched in the rain under a plastic cover on my back; all of our belongings are gone due to the demolition,” Pinky, another resident, told Newsclick while breaking down.
Many like Pinky are struggling to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the incessant rainfall in the city.
Khori village, located on the Delhi-Haryana border, has been home to over one lakh people, with over 10,000 homes. The Supreme Court had reiterated that the question of rehabilitation will be handled later and that evictions must first be carried out in the light of protecting the green cover of the region.
The United Nations also intervened in the matter over the weekend, issuing a statement calling on India to halt the eviction process as it flouts humanitarian guidelines on evictions amid the pandemic. It appealed to India to "urgently review its plans for razing" Khori village and "consider regularising the settlement" in order to ensure no citizen was left homeless.
However, Indian authorities have responded to the UN, terming their intervention an “abuse” of the position of special rapporteurs. The Indian authorities have also termed the intervention as one which is disrespectful of the country’s apex court.
Aside from bearing the brunt of the ongoing demolitions and the state apathy on show, the residents of Khori are also confused about what the future holds. While some hold ration cards from Delhi, others hold identity proofs and property papers from Haryana. They find themselves trapped in the loop of a puzzled state of affairs between the two governments.
The residents are in a limbo over the rehabilitation exercise which stated that those with an annual income of up to Rs three lakh will be considered for an allotment. The plan also stated that the name of the head of the family had to be registered in the voter list of the 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 and an allotment will be mulled over if any member of the family has an electricity collection issued by the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN).
As of now, the residents are counting on civil society aid for food and water. However, the heavy police presence and harassment has meant that relief work is slow and difficult. Speaking to Newsclick, Neelesh from the Basti Bachao Manch alleged that a food distribution drive was stopped by the police on Sunday. “They said that we did not have permission for distribution.”
The evictions are being carried out in the name of protecting the green cover, wherein the residents have been termed encroachers. However, experts have pointed out that the demolitions may be happening due to vested interests and that the encroachment narrative does not hold water.
Speaking to Newsclick, researcher Ishita Chatterjee, who has worked extensively on Khori, pointed out: “The Supreme Court orders mention that Khori Gaon residents are forest encroachers, and hence they should be evicted. However, the residents have paid for the plot of land sold to them by the land mafia. In many cases, they were also provided with fake documents
and power of attorneys. The Delhi and Haryana governments have provided voter ID, Aadhaar and ration cards to them. Regarding the forest land argument, the forest only exists on paper and in the government's imagination. This area had stopped being a forest when mining was allowed here from the 1950s. So, if Khori Gaon residents are accused of encroachment, then the government should be asked why this was allowed. And they settled on post-quarry land, not on forest land."
Over five suicides have been reported in Khori already, allegedly owing to the anxiety and stress of the evictions. Most dwellings are held by migrant workers, who came to Delhi to seek work and bought land from middlemen and property dealers in a bid to save rent.
Electricity and water supply have been cut in the area over the past month to push the residents into evicting their houses. The excessive use of force and harassment of the media have also been reported amid the drive.
Also read-- Khori Village: Demolitions Continue Unabated, Residents Call Rehabilitation Policy a Cruel Joke