Demolitions Not Only Continue to Wreck Livelihoods, Now Used as ‘Punitive Measure’: Report (The Wire)

Governments demolished 36,486 houses in 2021 – meaning at least 100 homes were destroyed every day. In other words, at least 567 were evicted every day or 24 people lost their homes every hour.

Security forces at the Prayagraj demolition drive at Javed Mohammad’s house. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: The latest report of the Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) on forced evictions in India has pointed to the new disturbing trend of “demolitions as a punitive measure” by various state governments and noted that these “arbitrary acts” of demolishing of homes and structures of minority communities have compounded the vulnerabilities of women, children, older persons, and persons with disabilities.

The report has also highlighted the vulnerabilities of the marginalised sections to forced evictions. It has stated that while “a total of 158 incidents of forced eviction/home demolition have been documented” in 2021, about 15 million people across rural and urban areas continue to face the threat of eviction from their habitats.

While 2021 was a year in which the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged India – causing numerous deaths and immense distress – the report noted that even amidst such a humanitarian crisis, the authorities continued with their drives to displace people. Over 59% of the displaced did not even receive any resettlement, partial resettlement or compensation from the state, the report says.

In the preface to the report, executive director of HLRN Enakshi Ganguly wrote that it was “unfortunate that over the years, this situation has only worsened and the magnitude of people displaced has increased despite the intervening pandemic.”

She added that the report also encapsulates the major evictions that were carried out in 2022 (January to July) and “highlights a worrying trend of state demolishing homes as a punitive measure, violating all due process norms and established human rights procedures”.

Overall, the report said, government authorities at central and state levels demolished over 36,480 homes, thereby evicting over 207,100 people from their homes, in 2021. And between January and July 2022, it added that state authorities across the country demolished over 25,800 homes, affecting at least 124,450 people.

‘Demolitions as a punitive measure’

Coming to the issue of governments (in particular those helmed by the BJP) undertaking demolitions as a punitive measure, the report referred to numerous instances where households were demolished as a means of meting out punishment following communal clashes.

The report said “following the communal violence during the celebrations for the Hindu festivals of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti in April 2022 in Madhya Pradesh, 16 houses and 29 shops of Muslim households” were demolished in Khargone district. It added that “statements from government officials and ministers indicated the intention of using demolitions as punishment against those who were viewed by the state as participating in the communal clashes.”

Similarly, the report pointed to demolitions that were carried out in Khambat and Himmatnagar in Gujarat where Muslim families were affected.

This story was originally published in thewire . Read the full story here

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