Residents of Gurugram’s Khori Gaon to continue protest
Residents of Khori Gaon Basti in Faridabad said they will continue to protest against the plans to demolish their houses without rehabilitating them, even as eight people were arrested and 10 booked for blocking a road in Faridabad’s Surajkund last Friday. The police said that more than 150 men, women and children gathered in violation of Covid-19 safeguards to block the Faridabad-Delhi road and raise slogans against the authorities.
The police said that they were protesting against the impending demolition of their houses following a Supreme Court order in Khori Gaon Basti colony which was constructed illegally on the foothills of the Aravallis 20 years ago. There are nearly 10,000 houses with a population of around 100,000 that will be displaced as the demolition drive is set to start on Wednesday. The police said that the dwellers were demanding rehabilitation and are not ready to vacate the area fearing being homeless.
Residents of the area are demanding the release of the arrested persons and rehabilitation ahead of the demolition drive. They said they have hired lawyers who will help them get the bail of the victims.
Sonu Kumar, a resident who has been living in the colony for the last 15 years, said that the residents have invested a huge amount to buy the houses there. “The government has to come up with a solution as to who will bear the loss of property. How can they demolish and give no alternative for our rehabilitation? We will protest on Monday again in our colony to give a clear message that we will not let the drive take place,” he said.
Milesh Kumar (29), a social activist and a member of Basti Suraksha Manch, who works on issues of housing rights, said that people arrested from the spot were holding a silent protest and they were not violating any Covid-19 guidelines. “All of them are demanding reallocation and an alternative plan so that they get a space to live. People have built double and three-storey houses but the administration and government have turned a blind eye for the last 20 years. Why did they let the constructions take place?” he said.
The eight persons arrested on Friday were booked under sections 109 (punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment), 114 (abettor present when offence is committed), 147 (riot), 149 (unlawful assembly), 186 (whoever voluntarily obstructs any public servant in the discharge of his public functions), 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant)., 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 283 (danger or obstruction in public), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 61 of the Disaster Management Act at Surajkund police station.
Anshu Singla, the deputy commissioner of police (NIT), said that they received information about the gathering near the Faridabad-Delhi border around 6.30am. “Even small children were brought to the spot and they all were violating Covid-19 protocols. When our teams asked them to maintain social distancing and wear face masks, they refused to follow their directions. All of them shouted slogans against the state government and the Faridabad municipal corporation authorities,” she said.
Singla said that despite repeated directions, protesters did not pay heed to them and were not ready to unblock the road, following which they arrested eight people and detained several others. “We have got the videography done of the incident and pictures have been clicked, from which we are identifying more people who are likely to be arrested,” she said.
Residents said that constructions were taking place in the colony since 2000, while demolition drives were held in September 2015 and last April, wherein 1,000 and 2,000 houses, respectively, were razed.
Following the demolition of 300 houses in April this year, the dwellers of Khori village had approached the Supreme Court for protection, seeking rehabilitation before the demolition of their houses. On April 6, the Khori Gaon residents’ welfare association held a day-long peaceful protest outside the office of the commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad and the deputy commissioner.
After the Supreme Court, last Monday, ordered the eviction of thousands of slum dwellers encroaching on the Aravalli forest area, they are demanding temporary rehabilitation and action against those who sold land to them decades ago.
The land where 15 colonies were built is notified under special sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), which extends protection against land-use change to certain specified Aravalli areas, forests and trees. According to directives of the Supreme Court, the PLPA attracts protection under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, which states that “no state government or other authority shall make, except with the prior approval of the central government, any order directing that any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose.”