Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami felicitating the rat hole miners, including Vakeel Hasan, in December. | Pushkar Singh Dhami/Twitter


His face alit, Waqil Hassan recalled to us, “It was the proudest moment of our lives. Not just for me, for every one of us.”

Last November, Hassan had led a team of rat mine casual workers on an improbable heroic mission to save the lives of 41 workers trapped when a tunnel being constructed in the Himalayas suddenly collapsed. Briefly these normally invisible men captured global attention and admiration.

The rescue accomplished by this bunch of impoverished workers is the stuff of legend. “When we reached the trapped men, they hugged us like brothers,” Hassan glowed. “The workers we had rescued told us that they were willing to give us anything we wanted – everything that they owned, their properties, even their lives. But we said to them – all we want from you is your love.”

We sipped tea with Hassan and the workers in Hassan’s modest home just weeks after Waqil Hassan and his co-workers had risked their lives to salvage to freedom the trapped workers. This two-room tenement was perched within a swarming low-income working-class settlement Shriram Colony, in Khajuri Khas of North East Delhi. With me were my colleagues of the Karwan e Mohabbat.

Less than three months later, bulldozers of the Delhi Development Authority razed this home to rubble. Only Hassan’s three children were at home when the bulldozers levelled their house.

At the time I write this, two nights of Delhi lingering winter have passed after the demolition. A distraught Waqil Hassan, now homeless, has slept amidst the ruins of his home with his wife and children.

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