Mansarovar Park – Legal Narrative
The Mansarovar Park area comprises several communities located near and under the metro flyover, and near the railway tracks. This note will document the eviction experiences of the Gadia Lohar community, and the community living behind them in Lal Bagh basti.
The Gadia Lohar community live under the metro flyover – they are an informal settlement consisting of approximately 62 families. They live in makeshift housing and are iron smiths and make and repair iron utensils and implements. The community has been living in Mansarovar since 1974, before the metro flyover was constructed. They have experienced a history of dispossession and lived through several forced evictions, most recently in 2013 and August 2017. No notice was given to community members at the time of either eviction.
The most recent eviction, on August 22nd 2017, left all 62 families homeless. It was orchestrated by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EMDC) and the Delhi police were also involved. A community leader speaking on behalf of his Gadia Lohar neighbours recalls: ‘after the demolition…no one from the government helped us.’ He noted how ‘children were hurt……’ and ‘we had to use our money for that.’ Children’s education and tuition were also disrupted for about two months because of the demolition. Many live in fear of facing another demolition. A child who recalls how the bulldozers came, without notice, and knocked down everyone’s homes, noted also that ‘policemen beat them [community members]’ while their homes were being destroyed. From a livelihood perspective, damage was also clear – tools and materials used to make iron utensils etc. were also destroyed during the demolition.
Following the demolition, a petition was filed by the aggrieved residents in the High Court of Delhi against the failure of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to rehabilitate the community. The petition[^1] also sought action against EDMC and the Public Works Department (PWD) for instigating the demolition and forced eviction without notice and without any rehabilitation, in contravention of the Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015. The petition sought compensation of Rs 50,000 per household against damage to property and goods and also security to the residents at Sri Ram Nagar against any further eviction or destruction of belongings. It is our understanding that thus far no compensation has been provided. Community members have rebuilt their homes, but after having suffered great loss, and some are more makeshift than before.
The community living in Lal Bagh Basti, behind the Gadhi Lohar community, near the railway tracks also witnessed an eviction in 2014. This community consists of over 200 households – many women here work as waste pickers, and many men play the dhol at functions, and sell nimboo-mirch on Saturdays. There are a range of other occupations, too. Children both go to school, tuition and help to support families, sometimes by helping with paid work and more visibly with domestic and care work.
In 2014 all homes in this community were demolished without notice. A community leader notes that ‘no notice was given, they just broke them [our homes] down.’ He said, the police came and told us ‘…remove all your things because all the jhuggis will be broken…they broke all the homes…200 [of them]’ and said ‘if you don’t remove your things and anything is broken it won’t be our responsibility.’ The same community member noted that ‘these orders keep happening, this can go any time’ highlighting the extent to which people live in constant fear of losing their homes. One of the boys in Lal bagh basti who was quite young at the time noted that when the bulldozers came ‘we didn’t know they would come.’ He said that the ‘police came and told us to get out and we all moved up on this cliff [behind where the homes had been] for a few days. Then we moved under the metro and then returned to where we had been living after 10-15 days.’
At the time, Koshish, an organization that works there now, was not working in the community, but Humana (they run a shelter in the community) assisted the community and after several days they were able to move back from the outskirts of the area to rebuild their homes where they had been, though with more makeshift materials.
[^1]: Chandrapal and Ors. v. Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board and Ors. W.P (C) 7775/2017