(CPM Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat, who the other day resisted offers to raze illegal structures in the Jahangirpuri area of Delhi, writes about the growing trend of deploying bulldozers as a punitive measure and what prompted her to intervene.)
The Supreme Court has extended its standstill order over the demolitions taking place in Jahangirpuri, a resettlement settlement north of Delhi, for another two weeks. It will bring some relief to the people of this colony, but equally important, it will relieve millions of citizens across India who were horrified and outraged by the advent of bulldozer politics – framed, created, implemented by various Sangh Parivar affiliates and supported. and sponsored by its governments.
I saw bulldozer politics in action in Jahangirpuri yesterday (Wednesday).
But first, I would like to share my own connection with Jahangirpuri. During the state of emergency, hundreds of ‘jhuggi’ settlements in and around industrial areas in various parts of the capital have been cleared and their inhabitants ‘resettled’ to large swathes of arid land far from their workplaces . It was the ‘beautification’ campaign led by Sanjay Gandhi and the man known as the ‘bulldozer Jagmohan’, then chairman of the Delhi Development Authority.
I was then a young woman who worked for the Garment Workers’ Union and in the industrial areas of the same district in North Delhi. Many working families I knew were forcibly displaced. I remember those days of deprivation for the displaced, without water, without sanitation or even with a tree for shade. One of these new “settlements” was Jahangirpuri. We had a party unit and hundreds of members of our union, later we formed our organization of women and young people in the different blocks of the colony.
I used to go to Jahangirpuri at least once every ten days or so. Our first mahila conference in the area was held in precisely the same block where I saw bulldozers yesterday – Block C. From those early days it was a block known for its Bengali Muslim population. Most of the families here were and are from the Midnapur district of Bengal and also from Howrah. They are mainly self-employed, small traders, traders, street vendors, some are engaged in the fish trade, etc. They form the majority although there are households that are not Bengali Hindus. In all these decades, there has never been any communal tension or hostility among the people of Jahangirpuri. I was therefore shocked and appalled when I heard the BJP and AAP business accusations on national television as to who was responsible for the “settlement” of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in Block C. This are in fact bona fide citizens. It is nothing more than the justification for the completely illegal demolitions that were taking place. It also shows such an inhumane approach.
On April 17, a day after the clashes, an investigative team from left-wing parties in Delhi visited Jahangirpuri, which conclusively showed that the whole event was deliberately created by the youth wing of the Bajrang Dal. It was also clear that the police were taking an entirely biased approach to protecting those responsible. Those who read this should know that the so called Hanuman Shobha Yatra did not have police permission, its participants were armed with drawn swords, at least two carried pistols and brandished them, it stopped deliberately outside a mosque just as the Roza fast was ending and worshipers were gathering for prayer, that there was loud DJ music playing at the time and defiant slogans were being shouted. I am for strict punishment of the guilty. But the police conducted a one-sided investigation and most of those arrested are from the minority community. I have written to the Delhi Police Commissioner with all the facts.
But the next day came the news that the bulldozer policy, which is practiced nowadays in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, was being planned in Delhi with an open statement from the BJP chairman in Delhi that the municipal corporation under BJP control was questioned. to “bulldoze” all the illegal encroachments of the “rioters”.
Senior Advocate Shri Surendranath, President of the All-India Lawyers Union, joined other senior attorneys Dushyant Dave and Kapil Sibal in making a special mention of the bench headed by the Chief Justice of India who has pleased to grant a standstill order.
At zero point
I was due to go to Jahangirpuri for a meeting in the afternoon, but the demolition hearing we started for the settlement with the information from our lawyer that a standstill order had been granted. But when we got there, we saw bulldozers in action. Even an hour and a half after the order of the SC, the demolition continued. This was clearly a contempt of court. We saw women and children in tears. I saw a little girl running from house to house. I don’t know what the child was looking for, maybe his satchel shredded by the bulldozer. A Haneefa widow who sold kebabs had covered her face unable to bear the shock of losing all her possessions including the wooden cart. We rushed to stop the bulldozers. There was not an officer in sight. We stopped two bulldozers, then the officers arrived. I showed them my lawyers’ instructions based on the SC order. They feigned ignorance. It was simply impossible. While I was with the policeman, he received a call from the police commissioner. He informed him that I was there with the order information.
He said “The bulldozer has stopped.”
No due process
No notice was given to a single person. There was no due process. It is as if the poor have no rights. But with that, it was totally selective. While any visitor to Jahanagirpuri can see the same sheds and small shops, branded as illegal by the BJP throughout the settlement in each block, the bulldozers only came to block C – the message is clear: these are not the illegal encroachments that are the problem. It is the imposition of a program of intimidation, intimidation, terrorization of a minority community, depriving it of its dignity, forcing it into a subordinate position, just as the RSS Sarsanghchalak Golwalker wrote” minority communities can only live in India as subordinates”.
It is not just Haneefa’s wooden cart that has been smashed to pieces – what is sought to be demolished is India’s secular framework. It is this bulldozer that must be stopped – through our collective action and determination.