Delhi: At Jahangirpuri, residents left to pick up pieces amid curbs

By, New Delhi
Apr 22, 2022 01:38 PM IST

Several people in the area said they lost their livelihoods with the North Delhi Municipal Corporation’s (North MCD) drive the previous day either damaging or destroying their pushcarts or temporary stalls.

First there were violent clashes, then bulldozers rolled in for an anti-encroachment drive, and now curbs on movement across the locality. The residents of Jahangirpuri Block C on Thursday said there appears to be no end to their misery after five tumultuous days.

Security personnel in Jahangirpuri, on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (Amal KS/HT) PREMIUM
Security personnel in Jahangirpuri, on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (Amal KS/HT)

Several people in the area said they lost their livelihoods with the North Delhi Municipal Corporation’s (North MCD) drive the previous day either damaging or destroying their pushcarts or temporary stalls. And, with movement of people being restricted as Block C remains cordoned by heavy police deployment, residents said they are struggling to even arrange for food or go out to find work.

Also Read | Drinking water scarce, debris chokes drains in Jahangirpuri

Tension has prevailed in the locality since nine people -- eight police personnel and one civilian -- were injured during clashes between Hindus and Muslims during a Hanuman Jayanti procession on Sunday.

Images of the broken cold drinks kiosk run by Akbar, 40, and Rahima, 36, and their childten Rahim, 16, and Asif, 12, trying to salvage leftover bottles, went viral on Wednesday.

On Thursday, they were unable to step out of their house. “We are not allowed to go outside. Policemen are not letting us. We had rice in the house and borrowed some vegetables from the neighbours to manage for the day,” Akbar said over the phone.

He said he was yet to think of what he needs to do next. “I can’t even step out. To be able to rebuild the business, I’ll have to meet people and ask for a loan. It seems this will go on a few days, so I don’t know what to do.”

His neighbour, Hussain, whose roof collapsed because of the impact of the bulldozer, said he hasn’t been able to start repairing it yet. “I had about 1,000, but I have spent it over the last five days, and I’m not able to work. I will ask relatives for a loan till I am able to set up something on my own,” he said.

Raman Jha, 55, was planning his 19-year-old daughter’s wedding back home in Bihar but now that his paan shop has been razed, he is also hoping to get a friendly loan.

“First, there was the Covid lockdown for so long. Then when things started looking up a bit, the clashes took place. At the worst of time, at least I knew I had a kiosk I could run. But now, that has been razed. I have no hope now,” he said. .

Residents claim their shops were legal

Several residents whose pushcarts were destroyed and vending stalls broken claimed that they were issued a vending certificate by the North MCD itself, and that their businesses were legal.

“They could have asked us to remove the stalls, but they didn’t listen to us. We tried to show them our certificates, but they didn’t see,” said Ambiya, who used to run an eatery on a pushcart. There were many like Ambiya who showed similar documents on Thursday. HT could not independently ascertain their veracity.

Also Read | BJP at fault for religious tensions: Oppn flays Jahangirpuri demolition action

“Eight people are dependent on the earnings from my pushcart,” said Samad Sheikh, who sold old clothes.

Ganesh Kumar Gupta, owner of a juice shop which was razed on Wednesday, claimed that he had all the necessary documents and that his establishment was “completely legal”. He said that he has moved the Supreme Court demanding compensation.

“Over the last two decades, whenever there was an action by authorities, I showed them the documents and they didn’t touch my shop. But on Wednesday, when I tried to tell them about my legal status, they just ignored it,” he said.

“I don’t know what I will do next,” he said.

Two youngsters who worked at Gupta’s shop have also now become jobless, he said, adding that he is taking them food.

A senior police officer, howver, rejected allegations that people were not being allowed to come out of their houses.

“Clear instructions have been given to staff that essential services will not be stopped. If they’re not allowed from one route, they’re facilitated from another route,” the officer said, asking not to be named.

According to the officer, the area has been cordoned off to maintain peace, and also because of heavy presence of the media and visits by political leaders.

North MCD on Wednesday said the drive was part of ongoing action against illegal vendors who encroach roads and public land. Officials insisted that since it was an anti-encroachment drive, they did not issue prior notices to the vendors.

North MCD commissioner Sanjay Goel said that was the fifth such drive in Jahangirpuri since January. “Just around 10 days ago, an encroachment removal drive was carried out near this exact area. Police gave us consent to carry out this drive. Nothing wrong has been done. Just look at the status of the roads in this area. They are heavily encroached,” he said.

The drive began at 10.15am, and continued till 12.40 -- about one-and-a-half hours after the Supreme Court ordered that it be halted.

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