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Supreme Court 'shouldn't be adamant', reconsider eviction order of Haryana villagers

By Nirmal Gorana*

The 50-year-old secular Khori village, near Suraj Kund tourist spot (Faridabad, Harayana), inhabited by various sections is on the verge of being uprooted because of the Supreme Court order. Despite the existence of various farmhouses and high rise hotel buildings , the government and the administration is only eyeing these 10,000 houses which house more than 1 lakh people.
Portions of land have been sold by the land mafias to the poor labourers under the nose of any authority without any objection. When in fact ,most of the labourers have been granted with their Aadhar cards. A resident welfare association was formed by the people of Khori and in 2010 problems of stay and rehabilitation of these residents was put before Punjab and Haryana High court.
This hearing took place on April 25, 2016 and April 29, 2016 where the labourers were assured rehabilitation but the promises remained unfulfilled. In 2017 Faridabad Municipal Corporation challenged this order in the Supreme Court.
In 2020, during the pandemic, the Supreme Court ordered removal of illegal encroachment on February 19. The labourers were asked to submit their legal documents by the Municipal Corporation but due to imposition of the nationwide lockdown amid the pandemic, these documents could not be submitted.
In September 2020, more than 1,700 houses were demolished by the Faridabad municipal corporation. Bandhua Mukti Morcha and Rashtriya Mazdur Aawas Sangharsh Samiti carried out sit-in protests and demanded rehabilitation for these poor labourers.
According to the Haryana Urban development Authority in 2010, rehabilitation would be granted only to the people residing in Khori before 2003. Because of this injustice faced by people, a PIL was filed in the Punjab and Haryana high court. However despite several hearings, the high court denied the stay as the matter was still pending in the supreme court.
Three hundred houses were again demolished by the municipal corporation on April 2, 2021. A PIL was filed in the Supreme Court (SLP) under Sareena Sarkar v State of Haryana where it prayed for immediate stay, but on June 7, 2021,the Supreme Court ordered to evict residents of Khori from the forest area within six weeks.
The decision was unwelcome and the residents of Khori protested against the order which led to the arrest of the protesters who were put under false charges. FIRs were filed on June 14 and 15 against protesters who were approximately more than 150 in number. Following this incident electricity and water supply was also cut off.
On June 15, 2021, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves visited Khori to take a report of the ground situation and brief the residents of the village about the order. On the same day, I was arrested by the Suraj Kund police and was put under police custody where I faced physical and mental abuse/ torture. He was repeatedly asked to go against his will to sign a blank paper which he refused. The police even threated and defamed me. Several charges were put against me, including section 180 CrPC.
I was produced before the magistrate by the Faridabad district court on June 16. However, I was released on bail despite the police demanding remand of three days. Till now more than 20 people have been put in jail and two people are still locked up for which these human rights lawyers are meticulously trying to get them released.
A number of online campaigns were organised by various organisations for the rehabilitation of the Khori villagers. More than 20,000 tweets and 1,500 emails were addressed to the District Commissioner, municipal corporation and the chief minister of Haryana.An ongoing struggle on workers housing by Bandhua Mukti Morcha, Rashtra Mazdur Awaas Sangharsha Samiti, Working Peoples Charter, Habitat & Livelihood Welfare Association, Basti Suraksha Manch ,National Alliance of People's Movements, Housing and Land Rights Network and Indo-Global Social Service Society is still in continuation.
On June 18, a press conference was organised by Bandhua Mukti Morcha where Medha Patkar, social activist, along with Colin Gonsalves, and I addressed the plight of Khori Gaon residents.
“Is the cut off date only for the marginalised people and not for the privileged? Right to shelter that comes under Right to Life and Liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution should at least be granted to each and every individual. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the displacement of people should be stopped", Medha Patkar said.
"The people protesting against the eviction are not terrorists but social workers fighting under the constitutional machinery. It is suggested not to evict but provide rehabilitation to the people who once displaced would be deprived of any shelter”, she added.
I told the media, “Several labourers in the sit-in protests were manhandled by the police and were charged with multiple sections threatening to throw them behind bars. The eviction order would lead to a murder between the person and his land. Had the people of these marginalise section from rural spaces had some relief or opportunity in their areas, they would not have come to Khori and settled there."
On behalf of labourers, I would like to appeal that, if a labourer approaches the Supreme Court, it should reconsider its decision on the eviction order rather than staying adamant.
---
*General Secretary, Bandhua Mukti Morcha, New Delhi

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