“The bulldozers were running over our homes even without any prior notice. We all ran to save our belongings, only to find most of them destroyed,” says Geetha, a former iron carver who is now working as a maid in homes nearby. She belongs to Gadia Lohar community, which seeks its origins from Rajasthan and finds its existence in History for it’s allegiance to a Rajput ruler, Maharana Pratap. In 2009, the state government decided to demolish their settlement, located ahead of the Tyagaraj Stadium in South Delhi during a ‘beautification spree’ just before the Delhi Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010.
The Delhi High Court’s judgement in 2010 directed the authorities to plan a proper rehabilitation policy for the victims within 4 months of the demolishment. More than 6 years have passed but the rehabilitation is yet to be provided. The previous settlement of the community was at the roadside where it was easier for them to find customers. “My father used to earn around Rs. 400-500 daily. Now it’s not even Rs. 150, including the earnings of both of us.” says Kuldeep (26), who dropped from college 6 years ago to help his father in overcoming the financial crisis of the family.
A 2011 report from Housing and Land Rights Network suggests that more than 2,50,000 people were virtually displaced just before the CWG 2010 in Delhi. “How can they destroy our homes and call it a nation-building? How can they take our homes away just like that?” asks Gagan Singh (33), a former blacksmith, who now works as a contractual labourer. The community is currently based in a temporary settlement in a marginalized and deprived state.
Vishank Singh is a New Delhi-based blogger/photojournalist who is currently pursuing his Masters in Convergent Journalism from AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia. You may contact him at [email protected].
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