New Delhi— Activists contend that a surge in evictions and demolitions has transpired in Delhi and other cities chosen as hosts for G20-related events, consequently rendering a considerable number of individuals homeless.
During a public hearing held on Monday, May 22, community members and civil society representatives provided firsthand testimonies regarding the evictions and anti-encroachment initiatives. The hearing, organized by Concerned Citizens—an amalgamation of diverse organizations—aimed to shed light on the matter.
Campaigners assert that a growing number of individuals have been served eviction notices amidst an ongoing series of anti-encroachment endeavors undertaken by various authorities. These measures are being implemented in anticipation of Delhi's forthcoming role as the venue for eight G20 events, including the high-profile gathering of heads of governments and states in September.
According to Pruthviraj from Land Conflict Watch, a discernible transformation took place in Delhi following India's assumption of the G20 chairmanship in November. He noted a conspicuous pattern in the recent demolitions, with marginalized communities bearing the brunt. Numerous news outlets have corroborated this account.
In the locality of Mehrauli, 25 dwellings were razed while approximately 700 eviction notices were served. However, the plight was even more distressing in Tughlakabad, where an estimated 1,500 notices were dispatched, leading to the demolition of nearly 3,000 homes. Pruthviraj emphasized that these demolitions inexplicably spared the residences of the relatively privileged, further accentuating the disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities.
Medha, a resident who was compelled to leave Bela Estate situated on the Yamuna floodplains, shared her distressing experience with The Mooknayak. She revealed that they were given a mere three-hour notice to pack up their belongings before their homes were mercilessly destroyed.
The situation was utterly daunting. As a result of the eviction drive on April 29, numerous students missed their crucial board exams. Shockingly, within a span of less than a month, bulldozers descended upon their community three times, exacerbating their plight.
The recent demolition operation inflicted severe hardships on the surrounding area encompassing the historically significant Tughlakabad Fort from the fourteenth century.
Prominent CPI-ML activist Sucheta De depicted Delhi as a war zone, highlighting the aftermath of the Tughlakabad eviction as resembling a heavily bombarded area.
The impact of the eviction was described as "brutal" by Abdul Shakeel from Basti Suraksha. According to Shakeel, the entire basti was demolished within a span of two days. On the day of the demolition, the police encircled the community, installed signal jammers to prevent video sharing, confiscated activists' phones, and even forced nearby hotels and shops to shut down, further intensifying the atmosphere of the operation.
Following the Dhaula Kuan demolition that occurred on May 13th, The Mooknayak visited the affected individuals who have been displaced. Many of them have relocated to Naraina Vihar, a nearby locality, while others have been compelled to return to their villages.
Pooja, a 35-year-old resident, expressed her anguish, stating, "To this government, we poor people are treated as subhuman beings. We have been rendered homeless, and nobody has bothered to inquire whether we have found a place to live. It is disheartening that we have elected such inhumane individuals to positions of power."
An elderly couple who lived in the Dhaula Kuan area lost their only property (a jhuggi) during the demolition drive. Harnam Singh 67-year-old collapsed in the trauma of losing his only home. After the demolition Harnam Singh was unconscious and was taken to hospital, later hospital administration sent him back home and he along with his wife was taken back to a village in Madhya Pradesh from where they hail. Harnam Singh collapsed on the morning of 20th May after not being able to eat anything since the day of demolition.
While speaking to The Mooknayak about the unfortunate incident Harnam’s wife said, “They killed him, the government destroyed our house and my husband couldn’t bear the brunt of it and collapsed thinking he doesn’t have a place to hide his head under.”
The government is destroying, and demolishing houses of the underprivileged section without even giving the thought that these are the people who work as laborers because of whom all the construction and beautification of cities is possible. These innocent people haven’t been given basic rights.
The working class is being excluded as cities are constructed using capital-intensive and technocentric technology. The impoverished cannot fit here. The G20 summit looks to have evolved into an extra-constitutional event that disregards the rule of law. It is unimaginable that the G20 could temporarily suspend the constitution by overriding Supreme Court or High Court rulings.
Many demolitions took place even after a stay was put on demolishing the properties, while there are also localities like Kasturba Nagar that receive stay notice from the court after the demolition drive is carried out.
In 2021, central and state government agencies destroyed over 36,480 dwellings, displacing more than 2,07,100 (2.07 lakh) people from their homes in both urban and rural India, according to a report by the Housing and Land Rights Network.
According to the research, about 25,800 residences nationwide were destroyed by state officials between January and July 2022, having an impact on at least 124,450 people.
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