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This Is Not Railway Land: Haldwani Residents Protest High Court’s Eviction Order

The Quint visited Haldwani on Monday, 2 January, to speak to the residents of the colony and document their claims.

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“If this land indeed belonged to the Railways, then what is the state government doing here? Why are there government schools, government health centers and inter-colleges (on the land)? The administration does not care about us and is not listening to us either,” Ishaan Singh, 29, who works as a pharmacist in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani told The Quint on being asked about the Uttarakhand High Court’s eviction order.  

On the verge of becoming homeless, around 4,000 families in Haldwani have been peacefully protesting since 27 December against the high court’s order to issue eviction notices to the families, after the land was claimed to belong to the Railways.

Two days after the order, the railway authorities carried out a demarcation amid protests by the locals. The railway authorities say that following the survey, a total of 4,365 homes were found to be occupying 78 acres of alleged railway land illegally in the Banbhoolpura area of Haldwani , according to the railways. 

The Quint visited Haldwani on Monday, 2 January, to speak to the residents of the colony and document their claims as well as those of the authorities.

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Residents Blame ‘Vote Bank Politics'

Ishaan Singh said, “I have been staying here since childhood. My grandparents are from here only. The high court’s order is wrong because all documents have not been shown. This is the municipality’s land, but they are not showing their papers. The Railways' property is supposed to be 45 ft from the track. But somehow, they are claiming over 78 acres, encompassing over 200 metres of area from the line.” 

The Quint visited Haldwani on Monday, 2 January, to speak to the residents of the colony and document their claims.

29-year-old Ishaan Singh, a resident of Haldwani's Banbhoolpura area.

(Photo: The Quint)

Singh added:

“The state government is disowning us because they want to do vote bank politics by dividing this community. People from all communities live here. But since there is Muslim majority here, they think they won’t get a voter base, which is why they want to divide us and remove us from here.”

On Monday, thousands of Muslim women gathered in lane 17 to offer prayers (dua) and make speeches on the issue.   

Speaking to The Quint, two women, who did not want to reveal their identities said, “We are fighting for our rights — quietly and peacefully. Firstly, more land than what the railways actually own is being claimed by them. Secondly, why are they starting from Haldwani? They should start demolitions from Kathgodam and take it all the way to Lal Kuan.”

The Quint visited Haldwani on Monday, 2 January, to speak to the residents of the colony and document their claims.

Two women, who did not want to reveal their identities told The Quint, “We are fighting this fight for our rights — quietly and peacefully."

(Photo: The Quint)

Kisi ko beghar karke koi ghar nahi basa paya hai (Nobody has been able to build their houses after evicting someone else),” one of the two women said. 

Talking about several government schools in the area, she added, “Where will the children go? Will their studies not be affected? Then people say Muslims don’t educate their children. If these things keep happening, then when will Muslim children study? How will they progress in life?” 

The Quint visited Haldwani on Monday, 2 January, to speak to the residents of the colony and document their claims.

Health centre in Haldwani's Banbhoolpura area.

(Photo: The Quint)

The Quint visited Haldwani on Monday, 2 January, to speak to the residents of the colony and document their claims.

State government's primary school in Haldwani's Banbhoolpura area.

(Photo: The Quint)

The Quint visited Haldwani on Monday, 2 January, to speak to the residents of the colony and document their claims.

State Inter-college in Haldwani's Banbhoolpura area.

(Photo: The Quint)

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On Sunday, Rajendra Singh, Railway PRO, Izzat Nagar, was quoted as saying, “Around 10 days ago, the High Court judgment came to remove all encroachments on the railway land in Haldwani. There are 4,365 encroachments and we will serve a notice tomorrow (Sunday) through local newspapers. The occupants will be given seven days’ time to shift; after that we will take action.” 

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has fixed 5 January as the date for hearing the petition challenging Uttarakhand high court’s decision ordering the state authorities to remove “encroachments from railway land” in Haldwani’s Banbhoolpura area. 

The Quint also reached out to Haldwani Mayor Joginder Singh Rautela, asking how there were state government properties on the disputed land, if the property belonged to the railways.

Rautela said:

"The matter is in court and as per the court the land belongs to the railways. The properties may have been constructed 20-30 years ago. Since this is a judicial matter, I don't want to comment further."

‘Either Listen to Our Side or Kill Us’: Haldwani Residents 

Mohd Israr Khan, 59, who is now a retired electrician, told The Quint, “I have been staying here since I was a child. Both my parents died here, I worked and aged here. My children grew up and got married in this colony. Whatever I have earned, I have sacrificed to make this house. Now if we are evicted, where will I go with my kids? I’m not a young man anymore to start working again.” 

The Quint visited Haldwani on Monday, 2 January, to speak to the residents of the colony and document their claims.

Mohd Israr Khan, resident of Haldwani's Banbhoolpura area.

(Photo: The Quint)

“People have been settled here since the 1970s, when there was just a dirt road here. We used to walk in knee-level water when it used to rain excessively. This land does not belong to the railways. They have no proof, while we have several proofs with us,” Khan said. 

He then showed several bills to claim ownership of his house. 

“This is our water bill which we have since 1994, electricity bill from 1997. This is house tax receipt from 1994 to 1995, that we have been paying since 1991 to the municipality. Despite all these we are still being troubled," he said.

On being asked what he and his family will do if the courts don’t agree to their demands, Khan said, “If the government doesn’t agree; within Indiranagar itself, there are about one lakh people. We will have no option but to die. Either listen to our side or take our families and shoot us all down.” 

Mufti Ahmad Raza Qaidri, 35, Imam of Sabri Masjid which falls in the claimed railway land, said, “I have been teaching in this madrasa for around 12 years. Before me, Ustad Mohammad Hafiz taught for 20 years. This madrasa is at least 70 years old. There is also a masjid in front of it. The settled populace around it has been here for as many years as well, as per the papers people have.” 

The Quint visited Haldwani on Monday, 2 January, to speak to the residents of the colony and document their claims.

Mufti Ahmad Raza Qaidri shows bills from 1990.

(Photo: The Quint)

Qaidri further told The Quint, “Today, the railways are claiming this as their land. Firstly, this is a settled community, which they are wanting to evict and demolish. Where was railways for 70 years. Were they asleep? Why are they doing this now? All over India, wherever railways tracks are there, they own 45 ft of the area next to the track. But today, they are talking about taking over 400-500 ft of the area next to it, which includes this Indiranagar basti. Where will these people go? We believe this is injustice being done to the people.” 

Sumit Hridayesh, Congress MLA from the Haldwani assembly constituency, has been protesting in solidarity with the residents of Banbhoolpura. 

He said on Monday, after the Supreme Court listed the matter:

“The state government didn’t represent the affected people’s property in the high court and let the railways dominate proceedings. Now the railway authorities have come up with an imaginary survey which says their 79 acres of land have encroached against a 2016 affidavit submitted in the high court which mentioned 29 acres.”

Hridayesh added, “There are state-run hospitals, and schools in the area. Did the government occupy railway land? People are living in the area for decades and have registered documents. There is a mountain of evidence and we hope the Supreme Court will give relief to the affected people.” 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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