Around 465 houses in four villages have been wrecked with bulldozers. The bulldozers may also be rolled out to demolish hundreds of more houses. Most of the houses that have been destroyed were of people belonging to the Dalit and Muslim communities. About 21,000 people are expected to be affected by this rampaging action.
The Mooknayak team travelled to Bareilly district, which is about 250 kilometres from Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, to investigate the current situation there in the wake of the bulldozing of hundreds of houses in four villages. The villagers have made serious allegations against the local administration and said that the Bareilly Vikas Pradhikaran (Bareilly Development Authority; BDA) has wrecked our village in the name of ‘smart city’ and is currently still continuing the destruction. About 21,000 people are being affected by the action. Indeed, Jogendra Singh, Vice President of the Bareilly Development Authority has said the action will continue to proceed.
A Smart City is being constructed, by the Bareilly Development Authority at a distance of about 4 kilometres from Bareilly city. As of now, this has severely affected people of four villages — Chandpur, Vichpuri, Dhohariya and Ramgangat. Inthe rampaging demolition of people's housesin Bichpuri village, many lives have also been lost. About 465 houses in the four villages have been wrecked. Most of these houses belonged to the Dalit and Muslim communities.
The Mooknayak team on reaching Bareilly, spoke to the villagers from Chandpur, Bichpuri, Dhohariya, and Ramganga Nagar to find out about their current situation. Chandpur village has significant Dalit and Muslim populations. There are about 600 houses in this village, of which 80 houses have already been demolished and around 60 more houses may be demolished.
So far, around 12 houses have been demolished in the village of Dhohariya. The people here are fearful that up to 200 more houses may also be wrecked. At present, there are about 500 houses in this village, whereas there are about 300 houses in the village of Manipur (also known as Ramganga). Eight houses have been demolished here. According to the villagers, about 12 more houses will be wrecked. In the village of Bichpuri, about 365 houses have already been demolished, and 250 more houses may also be destroyed. Around 21,000 people in total live in all these four villages together.
As well-known poet Imran Pratapgarhi writes on this action of bulldozing:
Ek taraf magaroor siyaasat ke zaalim bulldozer hain, aur idhar dekhiye, gareebon ke sahame-sahamen chhappar hain
Zaalim ko zaalim kahane ki zuarrat kaise todoge, chhat todoge lekin meri himmat kaise todoge?
[On one side are the bulldozers of thearrogant political oppressors –yet here, take a look at the fear-stricken shanties of the poor.]
[How will you crush my nerve to call out the oppressorsas oppressors? You can destroy the roof over my head but how will you break my courage?]
Ali Mohammad, a resident of village Chandpur Bichpuri, told The Mooknayak, “There are 10 members in our family. We built our house about seven years ago under the government scheme. Now the BDA has demolished it, and we have rented accommodation, but it is difficult for all of us to live in one rented room. That is why some of us are living here, in this shelter. When I asked the reason for demolishing the house, I was told that nothing would happen. The police beat me up and the government officials would not listen to anything I was saying. My house had been built before, and I have lived here since my birth. Now I am 48 years old. The BDA issued a notice to me on 2 July 2022. And then my house was demolished in the month of February.”
Bilaso Devi (70), a resident of Chandpur Bichpuri village, said, “My family is not from this village, but in 2012, I bought land here and built a house. Now I have heard that my house will also be demolished, even though I haven’t received any notice from the BDA. I am 70 years old. My son is demolishing his own house. How we had built our house! Today we ourselves are taking apart our house, only because when the BDA people come and demolish houses, all the debris also goes waste. But if you do it yourself, you can salvage some of the bricks and they can be sold. No notice has been given to anyone from BDA. As for me, I am keeping in poor health at this time.”
Nanhe Shah, also a resident of Chandpur Bichpuri, says that their area has been marked for demolition by the BDA since the past 6 months. [Houses are being demolished sequentially] “We appealed to the Chief Minister, the Prime Minister and District Magistrate, but no one listened to us. I had built a house here in 2002 after purchasing the land. Where will I live if my house is demolished? The BDA people come all of a sudden and start demolishing the houses. No-one is issued any notice. We also staged a protest near the District Magistrate’s office. BJP leader Sonam Chishti from Lucknow also participated in our protest. But even the protest failed to elicit a response. Instead, the police was sent, and we were beaten up and chased away, and Section 144 was imposed. Prime Minister Modi has said that we are providing houses for the poor, but here, our houses have been demolished instead,” said Shah.
Anita, who lives in Bichpuri village, said that about 365 houses have been demolished in our village and the remaining ones will also be demolished. We bought our land around 2010, after which I had my housebuilt. “Now my house has been broken down. We told the VC that you are taking my house, allocate some place to the villagers, where we can put up huts to live in. But the VC said, ‘You people are like insects, we will get the houses vacated.’ With this, our houses were demolished. In our village, 12 people have also died because of the demolition of our homes. There was a young man, Amit, only two months had passed since his marriage. His house was wrecked, due to which he had an attack and died. Now his mother and a young widowed daughter-in-law are left in the house. Also now these people [the administration] are grabbing our land from us and selling it back to us at high prices. They are saying that if you want it, then buy it, otherwise you will be made to flee from here, wherever you go, it does not matter to us,” said Anita dejectedly.
Some villagers, however, have moved the High Court on this bulldozing action. The victims are hopingthat the court will very soon put a stay on the order of BDA. Inderpal Singh, a resident of Dhohariya and a former Pradhan [village head], said, “Our house was built her a long time ago. In the tehsil report, the lekhpal [land records clerk] has stated that my house has been here since a long time. But now it has been demolished. We have gone to the High Court against this despotic behaviour of the officials.”
We made many trips to save our houses, all the way to Lucknow, said Satish Pathak, who lives in the village of Bichpuri. There we met Deputy Chief Minister Brajesh Pathak. All of us handed over copies of our [land] registries and he said that we will see [what can be done]. Still after that our houses were demolished by the BDA. “Now where should we people go? When the houses were demolished, at that time it was the 13th of November. We temporarily moved into some flats constructed by the BDA. Now we are being made to vacate those flats as well. The water supply to the flats has been interrupted. I like this manner of the government to eradicate poverty,” Satish said, “When there will be no poor people, poverty will also be eradicated. At the least, the government must give us some land to live on. We will live there by making huts. About 10 to 15 people have died in the village. I had my house built around the year 2010, at that time the BDA did nothing to oppose it. Nor had there been any board etc. put there so that I know that this land belongs to the BDA.”
Senior advocate D.K. Kashyap of Bareilly, said, “As per the regulations, before any demolition is carried out, you have to be issued a notice three times. But no notice was given to the people of these villages. This is clear violation of the law. Recently CM Yogi had said that the houses of any poor people will not be demolished, and even if this needs to be done, first alternative residential arrangements have to be for them, after which the houses can be demolished. Now it seems that even the officials are not following these orders. The authorities must listen to what the people of Bichpuri, Chandpur, Ramnagar Gautiya, Dhohariya are saying.”
“If the villagers have been building houses on BDA land, then that it is wrong. The manner in which BDA is demolishing the houses is also wrong. But it is basic human decency that the BDA should make alternative residential arrangements for the villagers, for which I will speak to the BDA officials,” Bithri Chainpur MLA, Raghvendra Sharma assured The Mooknayak.
The national spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party, Abdul Hafeez Gandhi, stated that according to the 2013 regulations, the BDA should issue three notices, one after the other, and make alternative residential arrangements for the villagers, after which houses can be demolished. Both the government and officials should work within the ambit of law. The law is the same for all. The Samajwadi Party has always been against the Bulldozer Raj. Creating fear among poor people by demonstrating the might of the bulldozer, and driving a bulldozer [through their homes] is not right at all.”
“We are continuously conducting investigations amongst the villagers. The land which was acquired by BDA in 2003-04, after that many people bought the land and built houses. These houses are now being demolished dictatorially by the authorities. That is totally wrong. Former union minister Santosh Gangwar and Arun Kumar, a minister in the state government also have a place each here,from when the BDA acquired the land, but their constructions have not been demolished,”Vikash Babu, divisional president, Bhim Army, informed The Mooknayak. “The places belonging to the politicians and influential people are not being targeted, the BDA is grabbing the land belonging to the poor and the farmers. The BDA has also acquired land in 2013-16 and 2021. Then why did they not take over these houses? Bhim Army is going to start demonstrating[in support] of the poor and farmers soon. The protests will not only be held in Bareilly but in all those places where this problem is being faced. Bhim Army has always stood with the poor victimised farmers.”
Recently, an order was passed in Haldwani in Uttarakhand to clear the slums and houses from land belonging to the railways. The matter was brought to the attention of the Supreme Court and the court stayed the order to remove the “encroachments” and in its bristling comments to the government, stated that these people are also citizens of India. Before evicting them, the government should ensure adequate alternative residential arrangements.
When The Mooknayak team approached the Bareilly District Magistrate ShivakantDivedi, he refused to talk on camera, saying that only the Bareilly Development Authority could give us the correct information about this matter.
The Vice Commissioner(VC) of Bareilly Development Authority Jogendra Singh, who also refused to talk on camera, said, “We have been working to acquire the houses that are being demolished since 2004. This is our land. We have all the documentation for this. It is out of our largesse that we have allowed them to stay on our land for so much time. But the land belongs to BDA, and we are taking [back] our land. I have nothing to do with where these people will go. Nor do we have anything to give to these people. We have demolished about 1,500 houses and now 32 more houses will be demolished. We have given compensation to some of the people owning the land. These people had encroached on our land. Which we have removed. In another couple of days, the BDA will have the backing of the police force. Further demolition proceedings will continue.” The VC further said, “Earlier, registries used to made just like this. Registries would be made for any piece of land. People could occupy any piece of land. These people should investigated properly before taking the land here. In this, some people have even returned after losing their the case in the court.”
Story Translated by Lotika Singha
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