Anti-encroachment drive: ‘I wasn’t even given a notice. I have suffered a loss of about ₹15,000…how will I run my family now?’ - The Hindu

2022-04-26 08:25:14 By : Ms. Demi En

Local residents seen during MCD demolition drive at Jahangirpuri, in New Delhi on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Riot hit Jahangirpuri was a scene of destruction, despair and helplessness on Wednesday after an “anti-encroachment” drive by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) left the area’s shops in ruins, and its residents, mostly Muslims, without their source of livelihood. Apart from the shops, the area’s revered Jama Masjid’s gate and boundary walls were also destroyed during the drive. 

As the bulldozers drove at around 10.15 a.m. towards the area’s C-Block, where most of the Muslim residents live, and began razing the makeshift kiosks and shops lining the road opposite Kushal Cinema, shopkeepers were left picking up whatever remained in the aftermath of the destruction. While some of the shops were partially damaged with the razing of their roofs and outer walls, most temporary structures were completely destroyed.

Shopkeepers, most of whom live in the area, said that they had not been served with any prior notice by the civic body and cried foul that no one had raised an issue in the several years that the shops had been operating “but only demolished them after the communal violence”.

Hussain, 40, standing beside his now destroyed second-hand cloth shop, told The Hindu: “I was inside my shop when I suddenly came to know that bulldozers were coming to destroy my shop…I wasn’t even given a notice so that I could have at least kept all my supplies separately. I have suffered a loss of about ₹15,000…how will I run my family now?”

Hailing from West Bengal’s Haldia, Mr. Hussain said that he had been running the shop for more than 20 years and used to earn about ₹500 on a good day. “I have two small children and a wife to look after…I pleaded before them to not raze my only source of income but they didn’t listen to my cries,” he lamented.

Lifelessly looking at her husband’s destroyed mobile accessory shop from the window of her house, Ukhatsun said that her husband, Mustafa, had been running the roadside shop for the last 20 years and could not imagine managing the family without it. “They didn’t even bother to give any prior information about the demolition drive…I don’t know how we will reconstruct the shop. It was our only source of income,” Ms. Ukhatsun said.

Mobile accessory shop owner Shaira was also distraught as her shop was among those demolished during the drive. “I won’t be able to reconstruct the shop anymore…I will start begging as that seems to be the only option. Where were the authorities all these years? Did they just wake up? Why have most Muslim shops been destroyed?” Ms. Shaira asked.

Similarly, 38-year-old Akbar pegged the damage to his shop at about ₹17,000, something from which he cannot recover. “I have been running this shop since 2006 and used to earn a decent amount…now suddenly, a bulldozer came and turned it into ashes. What am I supposed to do now?” Mr. Akbar, hailing from West Bengal’s Medinipur, asked.

“There has always been an atmosphere of communal harmony here. Suddenly, things became tense after the clash, with increased security and closed shops.. This has further broken the back of shopkeepers,” Imran Khan, whose eatery was left damaged, said.

Ganesh Gupta, standing in front of his destroyed juice shop, said that he has all the documents to show that his shop was not an encroachment and was a legal property. “I will move court challenging this illegal demolition of my shop…this is completely unjustified,” he said.

While the Supreme Court has ordered a status quo on the demolition drive, most of the residents of C-Block remain apprehensive that the bulldozers will return and that, “now they will come for our houses”. 

Standing behind the locked gates of her bylane, where most residents remained restricted during the demolition drive, Najma, 30, said that she has packed most of her belongings as she feared that the authorities would now destroy her house. “A civic body officer came and told us that we need to clear our belongings as they will destroy our houses…I need to be prepared for the worst,” Ms. Najma, whose sister’s shop was also destroyed in the drive, said.

“We are fine even if they destroy our homes but why did they break our masjid’s (mosque) gates? It’s our place of worship. No one gives them the right to do that,” she said.

Murshid Bibi, another resident, said that she had all the documents to prove that she is a legal resident of the area. “You can’t remove us from this place by calling us infiltrators…I have lived here for nearly two decades and have legal documents to prove my identity,” Ms. Bibi said.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2022 3:19:14 pm |