Last night advocates, including my supervisor, ran out of the office in a rush. We didn’t hear much, just something about an illegal eviction. Then, just now, a co-worker forwarded me this press release which explains what exactly has been happening.
A large-scale demolition affecting more than 5,000 residents of Gayatri Colony (West Patel Nagar) was stayed after legal intervention at the Delhi High Court. Justice Muralidhar ordered immediate interruption of the illegal action authorized and implemented by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Delhi Police. Contrary to binding legal obligations, DDA did not provide residents with any notice or meaningful relocation options, with many losing their homes and livelihood even after lived legally in the area for more than 20 years. Such an action violates the right to life, housing, food and health protected under both international human rights law (ICESCR) and Indian Constitution (Art. 19 and 21). The demolition blatantly infringes previous Supreme and High Court orders, above all Chameli Singh v UP 2 SCC 549 (1996) and Mukandi Lal v MCD WP 9246/2009 (2009).
Gayatri Colony has more than 2,000 jhuggis, out of which at least 1,000 have been demolished between Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th. Many of the residents are dalits, and the sudden demolition of the Jhuggis has placed the lives of the most vulnerable at risk, particularly those of pregnant women and young children. A team of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) activists conducted a fact-finding on the evening of Wednesday 23rd and observed a community tore apart by the abrupt dismantlement. The team confronted children unable to attend school, pregnant and lactating women with no access to health services and half of the community left starving and shelterless in only two days. It is estimated that Delhi’s homeless population arose by 30% as a result of this demolition.
At around 9:30 am on today, 2,000 policemen swarmed the area and five bulldozers were ready to re-start the operation. The behaviour of the DDA and the Delhi police was highly uncooperative, non-transparent and provocative towards both community members and human rights activists. Members from HRLN, IGSSS and the National Campaign on Dalits Human Rights, organized a pacific protest with community members and managed to delay the demolition until 12.30 p.m. Meanwhile, HRLN Advocate successfully filed an urgent life and liberty application in the High Court and obtained a mandate to stop the operations despite an ongoing massive lawyers’ strike.
The case is to be heard tomorrow 25th March, seeking urgent reliefs of access to food, water, shelter, and health care for the thousands of residents left stranded by the government’s unlawful actions.
To support and learn more about the work of the Human Rights Law Network, visit their website at hrln.org.
**25/3/11: The story was picked up by the Times of India: Basti Razed to Ground, HC stays drive
Pictures: Andrew Ash and Mark Esplin