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How large-scale protests 'influenced' Apex Court order to halt Haldwani demolitions

By Harsh Thakor* 

The Supreme Court relief to the people of Haldwani on January 5, albeit adhoc, has followed the struggle of the people of Banbhulpura against the bulldozer rule over the last several days. On the evening of December 29, a huge candle march was taken out in Banbhulpura area to protect settlements. The people of Banbhulpura flung on the streets to protest against the action of bulldozers seeking to demolish thousands of houses built on the  Railways land.
The entire area was swarmed echoing loud slogans raised in the candle march, displaying relentless spirit to overcome adversity. A large number of women, children, youth and elders also participated with aspirations of rescuing their homes in the bitter cold. The candle march was peaceful.
Social organizations and political parties also participated in the march along with the common people of Banbhulpura. Various social organizations stood firmly by the side of working people of the region.
Earlier, various mass organizations joined the people's struggle in accordance with the decision taken in the emergency meeting of various social organizations of Uttarakhand on December 27. Starting from Mujahid Chowk in Haldwani, thousands of people launched an intense and lively procession in Banbhulpura Line No 17 and Chorgaliya Road Line No 1.
The protests followed the High Court order proclaiming demolition of the houses built on the 29 acres of railway land in Vanbhulpura Gafoor Basti.
There are about 4,365 houses constructed in this place declared as encroachments. On December 26, the Railways and the administration teams began segregating what they considered as the Railways land.
Apart from this, five slums of Banbhulpura area were also sought to be included as encroachments. These were Dholak Basti/Gafoor Basti, Chirag Ali Shah, Indira Nagar East, Indira Nagar West “A” and Indira Nagar West “B”. As soon as people heard about all this, they started preparing for the protest.
The people of Banbhulpura started reaching Banbhulpura Chowki from eight o'clock in the morning. About 25,000 people stormed the streets, including women and school children.
Shaken by the protests, the administration decided that the encroachments would be broken on January 10. The protesters handed over the memorandum, addressed to the Chief Minister to the ADM at around 3:35 pm. Respecting the decision, people disembarked from the streets at 6 pm and returned to their homes.
Dozens of activists including Rajendra Singh, Saraswati Joshi, Kaushalya Chuniyal, Kishan Sharma, Madan Singh and Lalit Upreti Lalita Rawat were present in the meeting.
It was most admirable to witness such resilience and political awareness of the inhabitants of Banbhalpura
A strong link was established by the progressive organisations and the basti of Banbhalpura with the residents willing to integrate in any pro-welfare activity. The Basti Bachao Sanghatana Babhulpura attached to the Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sanghatana, Pragatishee Mahila Ekta Kendra and Parivartanakami Chtra Sanghatana mobilised over 1,000 persons.
On December 30 in Haridwar in Biyechayal Sector 4 a rally was conducted burning effigies of the government of Uttarakhand, protesting uprooting bastis in Haldwani. Apart from raising slogans to defend the basti issue, electricity and water bill issues were raised. It was pointed out how the Railways was attempting to procure the land without any justified sanction.
On January 5, a strong protest was lodged outside Uttarakhand Bhavan in Delhi by workers groups like Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra and Pragatisheel Mahela Kendra, IFTU (Savara), TUCI, Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sanghatana, Mazdoor Patrika etc. A memorandum was handed over to the Regional Commissioner.
It was most admirable to witness such resilience and political awareness of the inhabitants of Banbhalpura, Haldwani, in confronting the autocratic measures of the administration. People displayed extraordinary resilience, fighting to the last straw. It was important that the working class integrated into the agitation and was able to link its common interests, including the need to struggle against Hindutva communal fascism.
*Freelance journalist who has covered mass movements around India



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