Activists, citizens march against demolition drives

Left-wing members protest against the ongoing demolition drives by the municipal corporations, at Kashmiri Gate on Wednesday.

Left-wing members protest against the ongoing demolition drives by the municipal corporations, at Kashmiri Gate on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Several activists and citizens marched from Kashmere Gate to Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal’s residence on Wednesday in protest against the demolition drives being conducted by civic agencies across the Capital.

Among the participants was Gayatri, a Mangolpuri resident, whose food stall was allegedly destroyed by the civic agencies during the drive. She said her family of six has no hope and no money to start the stall all over again. “This ‘bulldozer politics’ is not a fight between Hindu and Muslim communities; it is a fight between Delhi’s rich and poor,” said Gayatri.

Vaani, 57, an activist from Saheli, an women’s rights group, said she was disturbed by the indifference of the privileged section towards the drive. “Thïs indifference of the city is a sign of rich and poor, where people think demolitions are only about illegal residents.“

While the drive was supposed to remove encroachments, it also led to the demolition of temporary kiosks of vegetable vendors in Samaypur Badli. A resident of the area, Kamla, 50, said many lost their livelihood in that drive. Now, her son, the sole breadwinner of the family, sells vegetables at night, fearing demolition drives during the day.

Shabeena Begum, 40, a resident of Dhobi Ghat, whose jhuggi was brought down during a similar drive two and a half years ago, said, “We battled COVID lockdown and CAA-NRC fear, but these drives by the municipal corporations will not let us survive.” She said she lost valuables worth ₹1.5 lakh, which she had saved for her daughter’s wedding, in the demolition drive. “When leaders come for votes, they show us dreams but the reality is broken and dark,” said Shabeena.

“What if my house is next? The fear is inevitable,” said Sazid, 40, who believes a particular community is being targeted in these demolition drives. “At the end of the day, the rich continue to sit inside their air-conditioned rooms and the poor have to bear the brunt of these drives,” he said.

Pritish, a member of the Students’ Federation of India, said there exists a communal element to the bulldozer politics and it heavily impacts daily wage earners from both communities. “The municipal corporations claim it is illegal settlement but it is the failure of the structure of the state. These people, living in deplorable conditions, do not have a choice,” he said. Instead of providing the poor and downtrodden with better housing and employment opportunities, the government is punishing them for being poor, he added.

“The communal polarisation being propagated by the government is very evident,” said Aishe Ghosh, JNUSU president.

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2022 11:17:45 am |