Residents of makeshift houses (huts) built on the encroached land of the railways along the Bathinda-Delhi railway track here blocked rail traffic after the railway authorities resorted to demolish their houses on Friday. The protesters stopped the Sirsa-Bathinda-Jind passenger train and delayed it for about 45 minutes and the Howra-Delhi-Sri Ganga Nagar express train for about half-an-hour.
A team of officials from the Delhi railway division had come to supervise the demolition of the huts on the encroached land at Bangi Nagar and Sant Kabir Nagar in the morning.
Assistant division engineer from Jakhal, Randhir Singh, and inspector of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) Satpal Singh Malik came to the spot and negotiated with the protesters. They persuaded the protesters to let the trains go on the assurance of negotiations with them. After this the trains were allowed to move and protesters also agree to lift the blockade.
Randhir Singh and Satpal Singh said the matter would be decided by the higher railway officials. Some of the residents demanded some time to vacate the land, but some others maintained that they had been living there for years and would not vacate the land.
The officials also asked them to give in writing if they are given some time to vacate the land. The blockade was lifted but no solution to the problem was found. However, the demolition operation has been stopped for the time being.
Some protesters claimed that they had been living there for the past 20-30 years, but now the railway authorities have suddenly decided to demolish their houses. As many as 12 houses were demolished.
One of the residents, Roshan Lal, said that they have been living there for the past 30-40 years and they had built cemented houses, but the railway authorities resorted to demolition without any notice. Roshan said: "We have our voter cards, ration cards and adhaar cards on these addresses. So, we are not going to leave the houses."
A resident of the demolished house, Sheela, said they have been living there for the past 20 years and are very poor. She said, "We don't have money to buy anything. We used to earn and eat daily. They have destroyed our huts and left us only to die. We will not vacate the place until they provide us an alternative shelter for free."
On the other side, railway authorities said, "The railways need the land to set up a new track on the Delhi-Bathinda rail line and residents were given 15 days to vacate the land as notices had already been served."