Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday visited slum-dwellers of Israeli Camp in Rangpuri Pahari near Vasant Kunj — that was demolished by the forest department on Tuesday — and dared the Delhi government to run a bulldozer over him.
“These people (slum dwellers) are innocent and they should not be rendered homeless. If they want to run a bulldozer here, they should first run it on me,” said Gandhi. “The Congress has always fought for the poor and shall continue to fight for them,” he added.
Gandhi reached the Israeli camp area around 7:30 pm amid a lot of chaos and confusion, triggering almost a stampede-like situation with even his security guards failing to control the crowd. He spent at least 45 minutes in the area, taking stock of the situation and speaking to the residents.
“My grandson was born two weeks ago. He was inside the house when the bulldozer came to carry out the demolition. We pleaded with them to spare our house for the sake of the newborn. But they did not listen to us. Now the baby and his mother are living outside in this cold weather,” said Lal Dori, who works as a daily-wage labourer in Vasant Kunj.
More than 2,000 residents were rendered homeless after the forest department pulled down 500 houses and left a large number of people to spend their nights out in the open.
Many of the affected families had migrated to Delhi from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and have been living here for the past 20-25 years.
Most of them are daily-wage labourers, with a handful among them working as drivers, maids and some even running small businesses in the vicinity.
“They didn’t even allow us to fetch our belongings from the house. We have lost all our possessions and now have been left to die in the cold. Had it not been for Bal Vikas Dhara (an NGO), we would have starved since yesterday,” said Raheeba, a mother of six children.
Other political parties too were quick to oppose the forcible eviction.
The AAP said the action was taken at the behest of BJP MLA SP Rana with an intention to polarise the atmosphere.
According to sources, L-G Najeeb Jung has indicted the forest department for carrying out the drive without any notice.