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The Delhi forest department suspects that “a large number” of “foreign nationals” are living illegally in Sanjay Colony, a 128-acre illegal settlement in Asola-Bhatti wildlife sanctuary.
The department has informed Delhi Police, “There are unconfirmed reports of the presence of citizens of other countries living in the colony without legal permission to live in India. This is an urgent matter. Offenders need to be booked.”
“There is a Pakisatni mohalla which needs to be kept under surveillance. Land mafia is active particularly there,” the letter reads.
Most of those who migrated to what came to be known as Sanjay Colony from Pakistan via Rajasthan were artisans in stone-cutting and quarrying.
“There are cases of visa overstay. We wrote to the police in December last year. It’s a matter of national security. We haven’t heard from them so far,” a senior forest department official told HT on Tuesday.
A senior police officer said, “We’re not aware of any such letter. We will check if there’s one and act accordingly.”
The forest department woke up only after a senior officer of the Indian Army, whose wing ‘eco task force’ is working to revitalise the Bhatti mines area in south Delhi through plantation, wrote to Delhi government in March 2013 that “initially such migrants comprised 10 to 15 families, now the number has increased to 40.”
“Uninterrupted new construction is going on in the name of repairs. If this encroachment is not stopped, this will lead to many other problems,” the Army officer had cautioned.
There were three colonies in the 6,814-acre sanctuary. After a Supreme Court order in 1996, two shifted out in 2006, but not Sanjay Colony.
“Occupants who had moved when eviction was ordered have started coming back along with many more relatives. When officials requested them to move out, they did so initially but came back after some time. In the last 8 to 9 months, this game has happened 15 times,” the Army official’s letter reads.
Residents refuted there was no foreign national in the colony. “Congress leader Sanjay Gandhi settled us in the mid-1970. These allegations are just to evict us,” said a resident.
Sanjay Colony --- where population has gone up from 4,000 to 40,000 in recent years --- has managed to avoid eviction because of political reasons.