With homes razed, desperate families in Mathura plead for rehabilitation

As many as 135 families (mostly Muslim) of Nai Bati now live on the rubble where their houses stood, with all their belongings buried under the razed structures, as the Railways attempts to make way for the expansion of the Mathura-Vrindavan line

August 25, 2023 04:08 am | Updated September 14, 2023 09:35 pm IST - Mathura

A family stays at the makeshift above the Debris of the demolished houses near the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple at Mathura in Uttar Pradesh  on August 23, 2023.

A family stays at the makeshift above the Debris of the demolished houses near the Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple at Mathura in Uttar Pradesh on August 23, 2023. | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Indian Railways’ plan to revamp the rail corridor running across the 12 km Mathura-Vrindavan stretch, with plans to possibly develop a station near Krishna Janmasthan, has led 135 families — mostly Muslim — to become homeless, as their pucca houses were razed to ground ‘to create space’.

After two days of heavy demolition on August 9 and August 14 in Nai Basti, opposite the Hindu holy shrine, the hapless families approached the Supreme Court and were granted a temporary stay. The apex court, which had asked the Central government and the Railways to respond, is expected to hear the matter again on Friday.

Sultana (30) is sitting on a mound of two-storey-high debris, on a wooden cot with a plastic sheet doubling as a roof over her head. She fishes out the papers dating back to 1978, when her father had purchased the plot over which her house stood until August 9, before the bulldozers knocked it down. “We had electricity meters and municipal water supply. What is heartbreaking is before demolishing our house, they did not even let us collect our belongings, everything is buried under the rubble,” she says.

Up to 500 people, including pregnant women, disabled, cardiac patients, and elderly who are sick and ailing, are now camping in tents where their houses once stood. Gola (32), who was suffering from intestinal infection, succumbed two days after her house was brought down on August 14. “This is a house our parents had passed on to us. I run a tyre repair shop and earn not more than ₹400 - ₹500 a day. We lost my sister-in-law, two days after our house was destroyed,” says Saqir (30). Saqir claims that while 88 houses had received notices that they would be brought down, his was not one of them.

 Watch | When a demolition drive in Mathura left several families homeless 

At 9 a.m., Khushnuma (9) was readying to go to school, when she heard the loud noise of bulldozers. There was a heavy deployment of police force. “We got scared, and were asked to move aside, as I saw our house being reduced to dust. My school bag and books got buried,” she says, adding it has been impossible to go to school for the past two weeks.

Khushnuma’s father Irshad is a daily-wage labourer and earns not more than ₹300 to ₹400 a day. “With no access to toilets, up to 500 families camping out in the open are forced to defecate in the open as well. It is a breeding ground for diseases, people are falling ill,” Irshad says.

Thirteen years ago, 26-year-old Aamir lost his left leg after a live bomb, which had been disposed of in scrap, exploded in Nai Basti. Now, he is sitting on a pile of rubble after his house was bulldozed at the same spot. “Two of my brothers had died on the spot back in the day in the blast. I am unable to fend for myself having lost a limb. Our only plea to the court is to consider rehabilitating us and compensating us for our loss of shelter,” he says.

Affected families had moved the district court in Mathura, and the court was slated to hear the matter on August 21. “Even as the interim stay application was listed for hearing on August 21, all of a sudden on August 9, the railway authorities deployed police and four bulldozers to demolish the basti,” stated the petition filed by the families.

An official from the Indian Railways said that the demolition was undertaken under the Vrindavan-Mathura gauge conversion project, where Railways was broadening the narrow gauge line to a broad gauge line. “While in slum rehabilitation, alternatives are provided by authorities to house the affected families. In Railways, there is no relief provided for the affected families in most cases,” the official said.

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