Dalit families targeted in Demolition Drive Undertaken by Bangalore Development Authority

Dalit families targeted in Demolition Drive Undertaken by Bangalore Development Authority in Doddabettahalli   (Yelahanka Hobli, Bangalore North) 

In a most shocking development, officials of the Bangalore Development Authority, backed by Bangalore Police, destroyed about 10 houses of villagers of Doddabettahalli. Each and every one of the families affected were from Dalit communities. In a similar drive, about 22 houses had been demolished at SomashettahalliMedaAgrahara and Lakshmipura villages of the same region a few days ago, which resulted in widespread protests. 

A video recording of the devastation and the most painful account of those affected can be seen here: 

 

Background:

Villagers from 17 villages affected by the under development Shivarama Karanth Layout have been strongly contesting and protesting against these demolitions, particularly on grounds that the houses of Dalit families, farmers and pastoralists are being targeted. They have made desperate efforts to approach every authority to raise their grievance: that they have been residents of this land for hundreds of years and have lived off the land practicing farming and pastoralism. Those without farmland have lived in small pockets of land they owned working on farms and as labourers. They have no other source of livelihood.

When BDA proposed to acquire these lands with a preliminary notification as per the BDA Act on 31 December 2008, families filed their objections as per the due process of law. Thereafter, the Government dithered on the acquisition, even denotifying 750 acres of proposed acquisition.  As the Notification was not given effect for five years, the Karnataka High Court even set aside the preliminary notification. 

Meanwhile, various statutory authorities allowed dozens of families to build their houses, including in private layouts, and even extended them ‘No Objection Certificates’, besides providing water and electricity connections as well. 

The BDA, which had not taken any action to pursue its 2008 effort,  resumed acquisition proceedings for the Shivaram Karanth Layout in 2014. The matter was challenged in court and eventually reached the Supreme Court, which on 3rd August 2018 ruled in favour of the acquisition proceedings subject to the direction that no legal dwelling would be destroyed and those losing land would be compensated as per the approved package. To ensure that there was no injustice in displacement and dislocation, a 3-member committee was constituted under retired High Court Judge Justice A.V. Chandrashekar, and including former BDA Commissioner Mr. Jayakar Jerome and former Karnataka Director General of Police, Mr. S. T. Ramesh as members.

A house destroyed as part of the demolition drive at Doddabettahalli

Dalit families targeted in demolitions:

Early this morning, Jayamma was setting up the cooking pot to make breakfast in her little dwelling in Doddabettahalli, when police barged in and asked her to get out. When she enquired why, they slapped her, dragged her out, beat her (injuring her in the leg), and destroyed her house. For a woman who struggled and built her house doing coolie work, and whose son is recovering from injuries suffered in a serious road accident,  the trauma was unbearable. She fainted. The police took her to a hospital several kilometres away, but instead of getting her treated, simply abandoned her unattended outside the hospital. Pointing to her meagre belongings and food now thrown into the open, Jayamma asked where is she to go, and where is she to sleep, as rains are pounding the area.

An inconsolable Sharadamma asked what crime she had committed in living in her dwelling, built in a small plot of land that had come to her down the generations, which too was ruthlessly destroyed this morning. She broke down narrating how her son, who pleaded with the police to not destroy their tiny dwelling, was dragged into the police van and arrested on false charges of obstructing the massive police force.     

Ramesh of Dalit Sangarsh SamithiMavallipurainformed the gathering that women, men and even children who resisted the demolition of their houses have been arrested on grounds of obstruction of official duties. He asserted that no official of the BDA had ever come to any of the dwellings, but these families are now under the threat of inhumane displacement. He wondered why only Dalit families had been targeted while dozes of houses, several of which have been built in the past year or two, remained untouched. He asked woefully: is the Constitution speaking only for the protection of upper castes and the privileged? Despite Dr. B R Ambedkar’s earnest efforts, are Dalit women and children to live off the streets and toil in the houses of the rich and middle classes?