Violence, heart break and pain as civic body demolishes houses in Faridabad’s Khori colony
The demolition drive in Faridabad’s Khori village, where several households have mushroomed on the Aravalli forest land, continued for the second day on Thursday amid resistance from locals, who claimed police teams lathi-charged them when they tried to stop them from entering the village.
Residents further claimed that women, who lay down on the road to stop the drive, were pushed away by the police. However, police have denied the allegations.
Residents also shared videos on social media to highlight their protest against the demolition that follows the Supreme Court’s order issued on June 7, directing the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad (MCF) to clear encroachments from the Aravalli forest land within six weeks.
While officials refused to divulge the number of demolitions carried out, social workers active in the area said over 500 houses were razed in the drive on Thursday.
Early on Thursday morning, more than 500 residents blocked the entry and exit points to their colony by putting up barricades to but police allegedly resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd and made their way in.
Residents alleged that more than 10 people were injured, including a man who was allegedly thrashed by a policeman in civil clothes when he refused to move out of his house. In a purported video of the incident, which was shared online, the policeman is allegedly seen dragging the man and hitting him with force.
Faridabad police stopped the entry of media persons and teams were deployed a kilometre away to cut access to the lane connecting to Khori village. Entry of vehicles were blocked at least five kilometres before the road leading to Khori, with police officers deployed there claiming that this was done because residents were pelting stones.
Drones were also used on Thursday to ensure that locals do not gather in large numbers at one place.
The police teams reached the village around 8am but started the demolition drive after 10am, with officials claiming that work proceeded smoothly and peacefully until 5pm.
Garima Mittal, commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad, refused to share the details of the drive but said everything was smooth. “We will implement the orders of the Supreme Court in letter and spirit and follow all the rules and regulations of the government. It is not possible for us to share operational details in the public domain,” said Mittal.
Anshu Singla, the deputy commissioner of police (NIT) who oversaw the drive, also refused to share the operational details or the number of houses demolished. “We are following the orders of the apex court and have maintained law and order. We have been requesting people to vacate the village and let us carry out the demolition drive so that we don’t have to use force to vacate the area,” she said.
Nilesh Kumar, a social activist with Basti Suraksha Manch, said over 500 houses were razed near Jharkhand Colony, Bengali Colony and Islam Chowk. He said there are more than 20,000 houses built in the 170 acre land.
A social activist who visited the village said it will take a nearly a month to demolish the area and another month to remove the debris.
Kavita Kumari, a resident whose house was razed on Thursday, said she and her family will not vacate the area and instead plan to set up a tent to live on the land they bought. “Let them raze all the area, we will rebuild. The scheme of rehabilitation they are talking about is of no use to us. If we had that amount to pay, we would have bought the house in any of the colonies,” she said.
Zareena Biwi, another resident, too refused to move: “The authorities have tried their best but we will die but not vacate the area. Let them take the debris, we will again construct the houses unless they do not come up with a proper plan. Who will bear the losses? We are dying each moment but no one is concerned about our safety and security. Police is hitting us and abusing us but there is no one who is ready to help us.”
Ishita Chatterjee, a PhD scholar from the faculty of architecture, building and planning at the University of Melbourne, who has been studying Khori village, said the houses are the first line of defence against the pandemic. “For the past month, residents have been screaming that eviction before any alternative arrangement is a death sentence. How difficult is it to understand this? Time and again, the police have resorted to lathi-charge when faced with resistance and injured many residents in the process. First, the state takes away the only protection the residents have from the virus – their homes. Next, you injure them. Who is going to pay for their medical costs? Haven’t we learned by now that the pandemic has devastated the poor beyond measure? The rehabilitation scheme announced by the state is a complete sham. It is discriminatory since most of the residents do not qualify, which is what the state wants,” she said.
Residents said they are likely to gather at the entry and exit points of the village on Friday too.
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