Representative image of a bulldozer demolishing a settlement. Photo: By arrangement

By Vipul Kumar and Alishan Jafri

New Delhi: In a tragic turn of events, Vakil Hassan, the man who had recently emerged as a national hero for spearheading the rescue operation of 41 construction workers trapped hundreds of feet under the collapsed Silkyara Barkot tunnel in Uttarkashi last November, lost his home to a demolition drive by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

In less than 27 hours, Hassan and his team of rat miners rescued 41 people after digging and ploughing through hundreds of tonnes of concrete with simple tools, a feat that couldn’t be achieved by the best engineering minds for 17 days with all their cutting edge machinery failing to make a significant dent. This was followed by an extraordinary thriller-like televised rescue operation catapulting Vakil and his little known team of poor rat miners into national headlines. Both Prime Minister Modi and President Droupadi Murmu had praised the team of rat miners for their bravery. Today, Vakil, his family, and his friends feel lonely and betrayed.

Vakil and his wife, Shabana, were not at their residence when DDA officials arrived in the neighbourhood. “They knocked at our door and said that they are our neighbours, but I didn’t open it,” said Aliza, Vakil’s daughter.

“They were talking rudely. I told them that papa is not here right now. Then they told me to open the door. When I didn’t open the door, they said that they’ll break it. I asked them to wait for papa. But they broke into the house. They hit my brother and took him away. Papa was also taken to the police station and they also took away his phone. When Munna Qureshi uncle tried to stop them, they slapped him.”

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