In a relief to thousands of residents who were staring at the prospect of being rendered homeless, the top court on Thursday, 5 January, put a stay on the high court’s order to evict over 50,000 residents living on alleged railway land.
Speaking to The Quint, here’s what the residents said on 2 January.
‘We Are Not Encroachers’
“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,” said 29-year-old Ishaan Singh, a pharmacist in Haldwani.
Meanwhile, 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.”
On Monday, 2 January, thousands of women from the Muslim community had gathered 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.”
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 apex court has now listed the matter for 7 February and asked the Uttarakhand government and the Railways to find a "practical solution.”
The court also reportedly took exception to the High Court’s direction to carry out the eviction within seven days, noting “there cannot be uprooting of 50,000 people in 7 days".
Noting that there is a “human angle to it”, the court also remarked:
"What is troubling us that, how do you deal with the scenario of people who have purchased the land in auction. You may acquire the land and utilise. Other is people have lived there for 50-60 years, some rehabilitation scheme has to be done, even assuming it is railway land.”
But then who does the land belong to? Click here to read The Quint’s explainer.