Tensions are on the rise in Khori, a village in the Faridabad district of Haryana as 10,000 houses face a demolition order by the Supreme Court for allegedly being built illegally on ecologically sensitive Aravalli land.
Villagers gathered at Ambedkar Park to peacefully protest the demolition orders were lathi-charged when they refused to leave until their demands were met. The clash ended with over 400 booked for stone-pelting and rioting.
The residents claim they were duped by “land mafia” selling land under false power of attorney and accused the authorities of being involved. They have given an ultimatum to the government - if they are not rehabilitated or reimbursed and their fellow villagers in custody not released by July 6, they will continue to protest.
They have been protesting the order since it was passed on June 7, but the land dispute between the villagers and the government dates back over a decade.
The Khori village was once a quarry for mining the extensive reserves of the Aravalli range. But in 2003, mining was prohibited by the government in all districts surrounding the mountain range. The miners, left with no source of livelihood, stayed back after the ban.
Aravallis, the oldest mountain range in India, are essential for recharging groundwater reserves and preventing expansion of the western desert into the Gangetic belt of Uttar Pradesh.
Land falling under the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900 (PLPA), which came into effect before the split of Punjab and Haryana, is considered forest land regardless of the ownership, therefore, restricting construction as also stated under the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
According to the government, the 120 acres of land under dispute is crucial for conservation of the forest. However, forced evictions without any promise of rehabilitation, especially during a pandemic, when the majority of the population has not been vaccinated, and with monsoons just around the corner, is unjust and violates the basic human right to safe and secure housing.
Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Minister of Haryana assured 1,400 families that they would be given accommodation for advance payment under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission scheme in Dauba.
Activists and residents have filed petitions to change the cut-off date from 2003 to 2015 of the Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikaran Rehabilitation Policy, since a majority of the settlements in the area were built only after 2010.
Meanwhile, the villagers' access to electricity and water has been restricted - water tankers are not allowed to enter and villagers are not allowed to leave, even to visit doctors. Section 144 of the Criminal procedure Code has been imposed, prohibiting assembly and movement. On June 15, a 65-year old resident of the village hung himself in fear of losing his house, which he built using his life savings.
The Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh has submitted a memorandum to Balakrishnan Rajgopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing for the United Nations Human Rights Council. They were assured of a virtual visit to assess the situation and hold talks with the government to resolve the issue. The next hearing for the case is scheduled on July 27.
This article has been written by Sr. Content Editor Shazia Farooqui for The Paradigm.
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