Video Editor: Rajbir Singh
“My name is Haseena and my house was bulldozed by the government... they have destroyed everything," said Haseena Fakru, whose house, which was built under the flagship scheme Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana (PMAY) of the central government, was demolished in Khargone, MP.
Haseena's house was razed down a day after communal clashes broke out in the region on 10 April.
A demolition drive was conducted by the Khargone district administration after Madhya Pradesh’s home minister Narottam Mishra said, “Jis ghar se patthar nikle hain, unko hi pattharon ka dher banayenge (The very houses used for stone pelting will be reduced to piles of stone)."
Following this, the district administration went on a demolition spree and razed down at least 16 houses and over 2 dozen shops citing 'illegal encroachment'. The BJP, meanwhile, projected it as ‘action against rioters’.
However, for the families who suffered because of the demolitions – dubbed irrational by many – this has only added to the struggles of daily life.
Haseena Fakru's son Amjad avoids talking about the demolition drive as his mother breaks into tears every time a discussion around her house comes up.
“Our house was very good. We had toiled hard to build our house. There were no fights ever in this place. But after this spate of violence, our house was torn down. My children used to work nearby and we lived happily...,”Haseena Fakru said, wiping tears off her cheek
For Amjad, who is fixing and wiping the handles of his cart before leaving for work, figuring out daily expenses has become more troublesome.
He now lives far away from his place of work when we revisited his rented two-room space, where the family took shelter almost a month after spending nights in a makeshift cattle shed.
As we sat down, Amjad, while slowing shifting his eyes between the camera and this reporter, said:
“They demolished our house and since then, we are broke... because curfew was imposed, and there was no movement or work. We are completely broke. Now, it's the rainy season and I am worried about how will we earn money, pay rent or manage to procure food for the house?”
Amjad and his three brothers operate hand carts and the rainy season acts as a dampener on their earnings.
Approved by PM, Demolished by Local Admin?
“Our house was approved under the prime minister's housing scheme... that’s why it was built there. When the house was built, it took time for it to come together. It is not built in a day... it takes time,” said Amjad.
Stepping back into reality from the memories of his demolished home, Amjad said that his house – during the time it was being built – was visited by many officials. They would come to his house and take pictures. But no one asked them to not build the house there.
“Everybody, including municipal officials, used to come and take photographs. At that time, nobody told us not to build our house there. The house was built thanks to the Rs 2.5 lakh that we got under the scheme. And then, we put our life's savings into building the house. Now, we will see, what the government does for us.”Amjad
Amjad Not a Standalone Case, Many Families Forced to Live in Exile Post Demolition Drive
Naushad Khan’s family of eight has been forced to live in a room with their goats, after their house was brought down by the Khargone district administration.
“After our house was demolished, we had nowhere to live. We are facing many problems... We don't have a house. We have rented a small 8*8 ft room and eight people live in it. We can't afford a bigger place, and we can't pay a monthly rent of Rs 3,000-4,000,”Naushad lamented.
Naushad’s mother Kallo Khan shared how seven of the eight family members sleep in such a cramped 8*8 ft space. A goat has also been sharing this space for the last 3 months.
Admin Says House Was Offered to Haseena’s Family But 'They Denied'
Khargone’s sub-divisional magistrate Milind Dhoke told The Quint that a house was offered to Haseena’s family which they refused.
Haseena’s family says the house being offered, in a multi-storeyed building, was in another part of the city and it would have made it very difficult for her sons to earn their livelihood.
“Initially, they said they will settle us in dharamshalas (shelter homes). When we said we can't live there, they offered a space in a multi-storey building (3-4 km away from the city). I told them that my house built under the PMAY scheme was demolished and I requested them to give us a little land here, but they denied us. How would we live that far from the market and earn anything?”questioned Amjad.
Amjad further said that the officials told him that it'll be better if he agrees to take the house now, as he will get nothing later.
Beneath the Razed Houses Lie Endless Memories
For the affected families of Khargone, the riots and clashes brought more than just bitter feelings as many were left homeless.
Naushad remembers how his family spent 25 years in the house that was demolished in a matter of minutes.
“I came here when I was five, and all my brothers got married there. I lived there 25 years. We never faced any problems in all these years but here, we are facing a lot of problems. We have to sleep with goats when it rains, our wood for the fire gets wet... we don't know what to do,” he added.
Amjad’s family, who spent around 40 years in the place where they later built the house which was razed down, say they have a lot of memories attached to that place and its difficult to let go.
“We are left helpless. A lot of memories are attached to that place. I performed the final rites of my father and my brother there, and then they came and demolished our house. Who should we turn to now?”