Over 500 residents of Khori village who lined up on the border of Delhi and Haryana in Faridabad on Wednesday were stopped from protesting against the eviction orders of the Supreme Court. The court had ordered the eviction and the demolition of the residential colony in a bid to protect the green cover of Aravalli mountain range. In its judgement on June 7, the court had sought compliance reports from Haryana government officials within six weeks.
Section 144 was imposed in the village prohibiting the gathering of four or more persons following the apex court judgement. On Wednesday, at the congregation, the residents were expecting to show symbolic resistance and send out a message to the Haryana government that they cannot be evicted in the midst of the ongoing pandemic without any arrangements for rehabilitation.
As residents lined up to enter Ambedkar Park in their locality for the protest gathering, they were faced with enormous backlash from the police forces who later resorted to lathi-charge. The police said that they could not let a protest gathering take place in the view of the orders of the Supreme Court and the state government.
Sushil Kumar, a resident of Khori village who had come to participate in the gathering, said, “This is what they do to innocent people like us–we have no space to even raise our voice and share our anxieties. Today was so symbolic to us and we have been treated with lathis. If there is COVID scare associated with our gathering, does the same not apply to the 400 police persons stationed across our village?”
The police were seen dragging out protestors and using force on them. Two student activists from the group BCEM, Ravinder Kaur and Rajveer Singh, were also detained at the Surajkund police station amid the crackdown on protesters. The police while confirming their detention stated that the activists have been called in for questioning as they violated Section 144.
Breaking down during the protests, Sameena Khan, who has lived in the village for over two decades, said, “No one wants to stand in the scorching Delhi heat. All we want is for the roof over our heads to stay. For me, it is death first and then the house–I would rather die. The police are asking us to go back to our homes and not protest but they are taking away our homes too, where do we go?”
The anxieties of the residents continue to rise with their voices being suppressed and no clear means of rehabilitation in sight. While the date for the demolition has not been finalised yet, many fear that demolitions are scheduled to take place as soon as next week.
The residents, who are being labelled as encroachers, reiterated that they had bought the land from builders who worked in connivance with the forest department and the state police. “The BJP has betrayed us, they had promised to protect us, instead we have been used as scapegoats and vote banks. When we do come out to raise our voice this is what happens to us. We are being cornered from every side and asked to leave, but where do we go?” one of the protesters asked.
Post the SC order, electricity and water supply in the village remain snapped causing deep distress amid the rising heat in Delhi. The residents have been going as far as three kilometres away to the Lal Kuan area to get water supply.
The residents of Khori had previously staged a protest on June 11. However, about 100 persons now face charges for participating in the protest while others were detained. The charges against the residents include Sections 109, 114, 147, 149, 186, 188, 269, 283, 341 and 506 of the IPC, and Section 61 of the Disaster Management Act. The residents had gathered on the main road raising slogans against the state government and municipal corporation authorities. The arrests had led to the creation of an atmosphere of fear and anxiety.
Currently, the residents have pledged to keep their movement alive to demand answers from the state administration and refuse to leave their homes.