"How bad you feel when your home breaks... For us this is our home, our building, our apartment. Since we left Chittorgarh, we have never been as miserable as we are now," Aasha, who is in her thirties, said to The Quint, pointing towards an unsettling wreckage left behind by bulldozers roving through Gurugram's famous Banjara Market on Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran's (HSVP's) behest. HSVP, formerly HUDA, is the urban planning agency of Haryana.
Her hutment, as well as that of hundreds of others who lived and sold artefacts at the market, has been reduced to shambles.
But Vikash Saini, junior engineer, HSVP, tells The Quint that the instructions to carry out the demolition have come from the top boss himself.
"This is HSVP’s acquired land, and there was recently a chief minister grievance meeting held, where Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar himself said that any land which has encroachments should be vacated."Vikash Saini, junior engineer, HSVP
Saini also echoes the authorities in alleging that the shopkeepers who live on the Banjara Market land are encroaching and need to, therefore, be removed.
In October last year, ahead of the imminent Diwali flurry, 250 shops and houses, which stood illegally on Banjara Market, were razed to the ground.
While shopkeepers who lived and worked there incurred significant losses due to the demolition, the shops and hutments mushroomed again owing to an apparent lack of alternatives for those who were being turned away. Some even told The Quint that they had participated in meetings with high-placed officials in the aftermath of October's demolitions, and were told they will be allotted space elsewhere.
On being asked about the same, Saini, however, said on Tuesday:
"We have not been given any intimation regarding their relocation. But yes, you are right, demolition did take place here prior to Diwali last year. And we were able to carry out a lot of demolition during that time, but despite that, they didn’t vacate."
'We Haven't Settled On Any Land, Let Alone Grabbing It'
Sushila, a middle-aged woman, who along with her family, sells artefacts at the Banjara Market, and till Monday, 25 April, lived in a thatched hut there, points out:
"We can neither make a wall, nor an apartment, and we only live in thatched huts. In the 15-20 years of being here, we have not settled on any land, let alone grabbing it."
"We are working as per the government and still the government is treating us like this," she notes.
Since the demolition began, Sushila shares, she has not been able to eat or bathe. This is because her belongings have been crushed under the weight of Haryana government's bulldozers. Meanwhile, Alok, who helps with repairing broken objects at the market, laments the limited period between warning from the government and actual demolition.
'But Our Children's Education...'
As shared by both Saini and Alok, the Banjara Market-dwellers were first intimated about the impending demolition on Friday, 22 April, and the bulldozing began on Monday morning. Saini also notes that they had made multiple announcements, some personally overseen by him. However, according to Alok, they should have at least been given a week's warning.
"If tomorrow some showroom, under the government, was to be vacated, even that wouldn’t be possible within two days. They should have given us one week’s notice. If even after that we hadn't left, then it would have been our fault. But they didn’t give us even a week’s time."
Several of the shopkeepers in the Gurugram market told The Quint that they have worked and lived there for the 10-15 years.
Alok also insists that the government should ensure their children's education does not suffer.
"Our children were studying here. If we took them away from here, won’t our children’s education suffer? The government should think about this. We don’t want to grab any land, the government should settle us somewhere. If we stay there for sometime, if the children are able to study there, their life will improve. If the children are torn away from here, their education and their life will be ruined. Today everything depends on education."
'Resettle Us Anywhere'
But even as mercury blazed and the shopkeepers spread out the wares they were still able to salvage, a few chic mid-week shoppers, undeterred by the bulldozers or the carcasses of a market that was blooming not too long ago, drove in on Tuesday morning to buy what may just be the last few Banjara Market artefacts for their homes.
Many of the items were chipped, crushed, broken, damaged forever, but some still gleamed in the summer sun.
"We had worked very hard to make this market and now everything is destroyed," Rohit, a shopkeeper, bemoans.
Chini, a mother of two, sitting in the same group as Rohit, says: "I fold my hands and beseech you, Modi ji, settle us elsewhere. We are really in trouble right now."
Request to the government to resettle them was reiterated by several others, as well. Pointing out that they have young women in their home, one Phoolvati says that they are not feeling safe anymore. She also shares that they are "being turned away" wherever they go.
"Even if you want to resettle us in the mountains, that is fine with us," adds Aasha.