Shopowners claim their structures were not ‘illegal’ but were allegedly razed anyway.
When Sheikh Abdul Mannan woke up this morning, he had no idea he would lose a part of his home a few hours later.
He was at home with his family when a fleet of bulldozers arrived, dispatched by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. A part of Mannan’s house was allegedly razed, including the bathroom.
“Only ruins are left,” he said in despair. “They also damaged the water pipe. Now, where will we go to drink water or take baths?”
Mannan is among many others impacted by events that unfolded in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri from around 9 am. After communal violence broke out in the area on April 16, the “demolition drive” was announced after, as the Wire reported, Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta wrote to the NDMC about "illegal constructions of rioters". Residents were not given prior notice.
The Supreme Court then stopped the drive and said “status quo” must be maintained. However, the bulldozing continued regardless until around 12.30 pm.
Shopowners who lost their buildings during the drive alleged they had the required legal documents to operate, but their shops were still purportedly destroyed.
This included Raman Jha, 52, who has lived in Jahangirpuri since 1984. Jha’s shop was allegedly one of the first to be razed this morning. When he and his wife saw what was left, they broke down in tears.
“We were running a licensed shop,” Jha said. “...The police demolished my shop even before I arrived.”
He added, “I used to earn only Rs 5,000-6,000 per month because business had come to a halt during the lockdown. Because of the violence, the shop was closed on April 16. We have a loss of Rs 60,000 today. Who will compensate us for it?”
Rahima told Newslaundry her shop was also razed this morning. She used to sell water, chips and biscuits, earning Rs 300-500 per day. After the violence of April 16, shops in the area were closed for the next few days so Rahima dipped into her savings to make ends meet, buying groceries for her family.
She did not imagine she would lose her shop the following day. Showing Newslaundry her licence to run the shop, she said, “Despite having all documents, our shop was demolished. The electric wiring has also been cut.”
Sheikh Atiyar, a meat vendor in the area, said he received a phone call from his brother at about 11.30 am.
“He informed me about the eviction,” said Atiyar. “Without wasting any time, I removed my shop but lost all the livestock. This cost me Rs 5,000. Without a workplace, how will I earn to feed my family of 10?”
Sheikh Manju Ali, whose vegetable cart was allegedly destroyed during the drive, said he found out about the demolition drive at around 11 am. “But by then, they had reached my cart,” he alleged sadly. “I don’t know why they are doing this during Ramzan. At least they should have given us time.”
“Someone has cursed us,” said Asina Begum, who was standing nearby. “In our slum, when a Hindu living alone died, the whole locality cremated him. We are a peaceful and loving locality. I don’t know why they are doing this to us.”
Ganesh Kumar Gupta told Newslaundry his juice shop had been allegedly allotted to him by the Delhi Development Authority, yet it had been razed anyway.
Sitting on a plastic chair near the ruins of his shop, he said, “I thought they were here to raze illegal shops. But I wasn’t aware they will also demolish legal shops allotted by the DDA. I pleaded with the corporation officers, even showed them my papers. But they were unconvinced. Before this they have come here many times for demolition drives but my papers have always protected me. This time they did not hear me and destroyed my shop.”
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