An Unprecedented Move: Demolition in Delhi’s Dhaula Kuan leaves Hundreds of Poor People Homeless

Remains of demolished shanties in Dhaula Kuan
Remains of demolished shanties in Dhaula KuanPic: Kashish Singh

Delhi— On 13th May Saturday, a demolition drive was carried out by the Public Works Department (PWD) in Delhi’s Dhaula Kuan area to remove the shanties (Jhuggis) present near the Dhaula Kuan flyover. This demolition drive left hundreds of poor people homeless, making them live in the nearby park with their little kids and old-age family members in the scorching heat of Delhi.

Delhi on a regular basis witness demolition of some or the other kind. These demolitions are executed under an anti-encroachment drive. While the government quotes different reasons for different demolition drives but what they fail to see here is that there are a bunch of poor people who get severely affected by these demolitions.

In the shanties of Dhaula Kuan, the majority of affected people are laborers, they work on a daily basis to sustain their livelihood. Now after their homes are being razed they with all the stuff that they could take out from their homes are forced to live in an open park. Residents told The Mooknayak that now they can’t even go to work leaving their kids and household items on roads in the open.

What exactly happened on the day demolition was carried out?

It was the wee hours of Saturday when PWD workers came to the location with bulldozers ready to raze the entire shanties area. The residents while talking to The Mooknayak told the whole series of events that happened on the morning of the demolition.

Homeless child sitting in the scorching heat
Homeless child sitting in the scorching heat Pic: Kashish Singh

Residents claim that they weren’t informed before, and no notice was served to them that their homes will be bulldozed.

35-year-old Shanti who lived in the shanties expressed her anger and frustration saying, “This is complete exploitation, no one is ready to help us. These political parties are only here to collect votes from the poor people by making false promises, they don’t really care about us. I was living here for 15 years and my in-laws have been living here for the past 30 years.”

Residents forced to live in an open park
Residents forced to live in an open parkPic: Kashish Singh

Another distressed resident said, “Why has the government made our voter ID’s? Why did they provide us with an Aadhar card? We don’t want to be their vote banks only, during elections they promised homes to us and after elections, they come to demolish whatever jhuggis we were living in.”

Residents feel betrayed by the Governments

Residents and locals expressed their frustration and displeasure with the government, citing the broken election-related pledges. Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) proclaimed "Jahan Jhuggi Wahan Makan" (where there is a slum, there will be a dwelling) a campaign pledge for slum dwellers.

The Delhi government even produced certificates as part of this project informing individuals of their entitlement to suitable housing. Nevertheless, despite these guarantees, the destruction proceeded, forcing hundreds of people from their homes and casting doubt on the leaders' motivations.

Locals said that multiple prior warnings to leave the area had been issued, which further exacerbated the situation. Last year in December when Manish Sisodia, a former minister and AAP leader, reportedly gave PWD the order to refrain from demolishing the shanties, confusion apparently resulted. Manish Sisodia put a stay on demolition saying it will be inhumane to demolish poor people’s shanties in the middle of the chilling winter season.

At the site of demolition in Dhaula Kuan
At the site of demolition in Dhaula KuanPic: Kashish Singh

Residents thought that now their homes won’t be razed. But despite this order, the demolition proceeded, confusing the populace and raising questions about the administration's organization and efficacy.

It is unclear how the government will respond to the demands of the impacted residents and solve the structural problems that caused this incident as the protests go on and public indignation intensifies. People who have lost their homes are left without any idea of what will happen to them while they wait for justice and a shred of hope in their battle for a respectable existence.

‘Poor people left to die in the open'

An old woman expressed anger and grief as her extremely sick husband was lying on the ground almost unconscious. Harnam Singh 65-year-old was lying on the ground in the park where all the residents of the bulldozed area were settling.

According to Harnam’s wife and local residents, he was inside his jhuggi when the bulldozing started, as it was 6 O’clock in the morning and he was rushed out of the house which caused him extreme trauma and some injuries.

An old man in desperate need of medical attention
An old man in desperate need of medical attentionPic: Kashish Singh

On the next day of demolition, we met this elderly couple, who were desperately looking for help as there is nobody else in their family and they have nowhere to go. On the day of demolition, during the bulldozing when police saw that Harnam is in serious condition they filled both of them in an ambulance and sent them to Safdarjung Hospital.

Harnam's wife said, “Police forced us into an ambulance and we have to leave all of our things there and go. Later when Safdarjung Hospital sent us back, then I looked for my belongings which were scattered in different places.”

Expressing her wrath and helplessness she shouted in front of the policemen who were asking the residents to leave the park to shoot both of them, as they have nowhere to go and his husband is already on the verge of collapsing as he is a patient of tuberculosis and his condition got worse after their house was razed in front of their eyes.

Police brutality- Claimed Residents

Delhi Police is asking the residents to move to shelter homes in the Dwarka area of Delhi saying they can live there for 15 days while looking for accommodation.

Residents are angry over this action of Delhi Police saying they are forcing and threatening them to leave the place and move. Pardeep a resident of the area said, “Delhi Police is not at all supporting us instead they are threatening us, where are we supposed to go with our belongings and little kids? This is completely unfair, they are treating us like animals. This all is happening because they want to revamp the areas as the G-20 summit is around the corner.”

Debris lies around following the demolition
Debris lies around following the demolitionPic: Kashish Singh

The Mooknayak visited the whole area that was bulldozed. A place that has approximately 130-150 houses is now completely covered in debris. People are forced to manage with the little belongings that they are left with, kids are forced to live in open areas with no facility for food, water, or electricity. People are forced to cook in the open area in order to feed their children. Residents claim this as an unprecedented move saying they aren’t getting any support from the police or the authorities.

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The Mooknayak English - Voice Of The Voiceless