Skip to main content

Demolition drive: Why aren't high-end hotels, farmhouses treated same way as Khorigaon?

By Our Representative

A public hearing, sponsored by the civil rights group National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) to hear the affected citizens of Khorigaon, off Faridabad, Delhi NCR, has seen local people complaining how their houses are being demolished even as the entire area was converted into a prison through heavy police deployment.
Rekha, a social worker, living in Khori Gaon, along with Sitara Begum, Shabra, Nirmala Devi, Nazima, Anu Verma, Sameena, Razia, Manorma Gupta and Shiraz Mithun pointed out that their electricity and water supply has been cut off, mobile phone towers broken, and internet access curbed. They stressed that people had bought this land by selling their village land or taking loans. Hence they were not encroachers.
Those speaking up were beaten up, arrested and jailed by the police, they said. While the government made temporary arrangements for stay and food after a day for the residents at Radha Swamy Satsang, they complained, the location is very far from the demolition site, and, there wasn't enough space where they could have food. Worse, the authorities were not even allowing people to bring back food for their families.
Those who heard the public hearing as jury included environmentalists Ashish Kothari and Claude Alvares, social activist Anjali Bhardwaj, advocate Tripti Poddar, housing right activist, and academics Prof Amita Bhide of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, and Prof Bittu KR from the Ashoka University, Sonipat.
The residents complained, under the economically weaker sections (EWS) rehabilitation plan announced by the Haryana government, Khorigaon residents are being asked to pay an impossible rent deposit of Rs 17,000 for their rehabilitation in Dabua. They asked, if the government destroyed our houses, which we paid for, why should we pay for the rehabilitation flats?
They wondered: Are we the ones who should be punished? Not those who settled us here? Not the governments who knew what was going on here? What happened to the slogans Jahan Jhuggi Wahi Makan, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and instructions to maintain social distancing? Do people know that we are here? Do they consider us citizens of India? Did the Supreme Court really give such orders to treat us so inhumanly, without food, water and houses?
Ishita Chatterjee, a PhD researcher from the University of Melbourne, said there is no proper demarcation between Delhi and Haryana border and the land mafia and government officials have exploited this confusion. Even after the court cases started in 2012, people continued to be provided with fake promises by government officials and politicians that they will not be evicted. Most of the residents from the newer part of Khorigaon have documents from Delhi and get their basic facilities from Delhi.
Hence, the majority of them will be ineligible for the rehabilitation scheme announced by the government. She further added that along with Khorigaon, many high-end developments are standing on forest land as per the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA). 
However, they have not been called forest encroachers. She also raised the point that this area had stopped being a forest when mining was allowed here from the 1950s. The idea of the forest only exists in the government’s imagination and on paper, but on the ground, there is no forest.
Dr Manju Menon, working at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), said that the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) is a colonial law that was used to regulate land use in certain areas to protect soil and water. In 2004, the Supreme Court held that the PLPA land would be considered "deemed forest" and construction activities will be illegal unless approved. Based on this order, the Forest Department of Haryana issued a notice for eviction in 2005. This was the beginning of calling the people of Khorigaon "forest encroachers".
There are many illegal elite constructions on PLPA lands in Haryana, and the forest department has a long list of them that was prepared in 2020. However, while these elite violations have not been touched, the Haryana government is displacing the people of Khorigaon to reclaim a relatively small area of forest land at a very high human cost.
Neelesh Kumar from the Basti Suraksha Manch informed the panel that Khorigaon had become a jail for the residents after the order of the Supreme Court of June 7, 2021. There were police all around, and they were constantly threatening the residents. People's water, electricity and other facilities were stopped. The police held marches through the streets of Khori Gaon regularly. Whoever raised their voice or whenever groups tried to gather were put in jail. Journalists were threatened many times.
Whenever people tried to organise a protest, processions and demonstrations, they were prevented from gathering or even exiting the basti. When they resorted to lathi-charge many of the residents and activists were injured. Due to helplessness, many people committed suicide. Demolition by bulldozers and JCB machines began on 14 July. In the rain and scorching sun, people's houses, temples, mosques, churches were demolished based on a resettlement policy on paper without conducting any ground survey.
Sumedha Pal from Newsclick informed the jury that even journalists were threatened and faced police brutality. They were asked to give written consent that they are responsible if the police do anything with them before proceeding with reporting. Even senior journalists were treated in the same manner. She ended by stressing that the state of freedom of the press in India has become deplorable and dangerous.
NAPM in a note said, "The presentations by the people brought forth the reality of exploitation by the land mafia and government agencies. The Apex Court also ignored the Covid situation and ensured no effective and timely alternative rehabilitation. The right to shelter, water, food are covered under basic Human Rights, and all citizens have the right to demand the state for these rights. Temporary shelter should have been immediately given to the displaced people along with written assurance for proper rehabilitation."

Jury's observations

On completion of the public hearing, each of the jury made several observations.
Social activist Anjali Bhardwaj: Even if the court has ordered eviction, this type of violence is unacceptable in any civilised society, that too during Covid and without rehabilitation, camp, livelihood, and media is barred from covering it. Both Delhi and Haryana governments are responsible, and we have to make them accountable.
Environmentalist Claude Alvares: How can the Supreme Court support all this? The SC order should not be misused in this way. This type of violence took place during the emergency period in 1975-76. We have gone backwards as a nation on the human rights front.
Prof Amita Bhide: Violence, brutality and land politics should be resisted and protested against. The first goal of the SDGs is to leave no one behind, but the government is hell-bent on pushing poor people into a deep pit. Residents are not begging by demanding housing; they have laboured, struggled to build their houses that were then demolished. Housing is their right. We must demand compensation and rehabilitation, keeping in mind the four issues of land, violence, development and housing.
Prof Bittu KR: I salute Khorigaon resident’s strength. What we have been witnessing is the repetition of the same pattern of settlement, displacement and faulty and inadequate rehabilitation. It is the government’s responsibility to provide houses for people. But they have forgotten this, and now people have to fight for their basic rights.
Advocate Tripti Poddar: My head hangs in shame hearing about what has been going on in a democratic country. There is a lot of confusion regarding accountability and the Haryana and Delhi governments' policies. The Supreme Court must be informed about how their orders are being implemented on the ground with brutality and violence. People who sold these plots, including government officials who accepted bribes, need to be made accountable.
Environmentalist Ashish Kothari: This case follows a trend across India of people being rendered 'illegal occupants' of land by either post-facto changes in land-use designations. The inequality of treatment is stark between the Khori gaon residents and the other high-end occupations. If reclaiming and regreening the Aravalli is indeed the objective, why remove only Khorigaon?

Report on the demolition drive

A report prepared on the public hearing regretted that the Supreme Court has concluded that this basti is an encroachment on the Aravalli forest land and so deemed it fit to order the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to undertake evictions using force if needed and not to use the Covid pandemic as an excuse to delay the demolitions. 
Demolitions have been going on continuously since July 14. The monsoon has arrived, and we are still in a pandemic where most of the population is not vaccinated. Haryana was under partial lockdown till June 21, 2021. Thus we have all the ingredients of a huge human rights disaster, one that could easily be averted, it insisted.
The report, which provides the historical context of the settlement, details about the legal cases and the Supreme Court’s orders, a description of the multiple demolitions that have taken place, their impact on the settlement’s residents and the human rights violations that have emerged.
Main recommendations of the report are:
  1. The cruelty and violence with which the forced eviction and demolition is being conducted be halted immediately.
  2. Adequate compensation should be provided for all losses, deaths and injuries.
  3. Before resorting to further eviction/demolition, a survey must record the number of families and their family members, provide temporary accommodation to those whose houses were destroyed, and provide documentation to all regarding rehabilitation within a given time frame. 
  4. The rehabilitation plan should keep in mind the basic human facilities of water, electricity, sanitation, access to health care, education and transport. 
  5. All evictees and residents should be enrolled in welfare schemes and policies for the vulnerable groups. 
  6. There should be a complete moratorium on evictions and demolitions during the pandemic. 
  7. The other high-end developments like hotels and farmhouses on PLPA land should be treated the same way as Khorigaon; they should be demolished simultaneously. If the high-end developments are not considered encroachers, then the urban poor’s settlement should also not be destroyed; instead, Khori Gaon should be allowed to exist in its current location.
---
Click here for the report

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

By DN Rath*  Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions. Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years. It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, b

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w