'Run Bulldozers Over Us Too': Delhi Voters Blame Both BJP, AAP For Demolitions

A large number of demolition drives in Delhi last year rendered many homeless. Will this impact the 25 May polls?

4 min read

Cameraperson: Ribhu Chatterjee, Swagatam Roy

Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

"Now that elections are here, politicians visit us. When we tell them, 'You destroyed our homes, do something about it,' they tell us, '(PM) Modi was the one to destroy it.' If we tell Modi, he will blame (Arvind) Kejriwal. Where should the poor go?" asked Khushboo, aged 26.

Just 15 kilometres away, 38-year-old Savita Kashyap, who resides in South Delhi's Tughlakabad, added, "Why did they only bulldoze our houses? They should have run the bulldozers over us as well."

Khushboo and Savita were among the scores of people across Delhi who were rendered homeless by massive demolition drives – at Pragati Maidan, Tughlakabad, and Mehrauli – ahead of the G20 summit in September last year. No rehabilitation was provided to these residents, most of whom belong to lower-income families.

According to a report by the Housing and Law Rights Network (HLRN), Delhi recorded 44 incidents of 'forced evictions' and slum demolitions in 2023. Around 2.8 lakh people were evicted by various state authorities in the national capital last year, the highest in any location in India.

Ahead of the 25 May Lok Sabha elections in Delhi, The Quint revisited the areas of Tughlakabad and Pragati Maidan and spoke to residents, who not only highlighted their poor living conditions but spoke about their broken hopes of achhe din (good days) and anger at the lack of help from political parties despite knocking on several doors.

A large number of demolition drives in Delhi last year rendered many homeless. Will this impact the 25 May polls?

Six areas in Delhi that saw large-scale demolitions in 2023.

(Photo: The Quint)


Janta Colony, Pragati Maidan: June 2023

On 1 June 2023, over 50 temporary settlements at Janta Camp in Bhairon Marg, opposite Pragati Maidan's Gate No. 1, were demolished as part of a revamp and 'beautification drive,' leaving nearly 200 people homeless.

The action was undertaken by the Public Works Department (PWD) in compliance with a Delhi High Court order, which refused to stay the demolition drive against the alleged illegal slum cluster.

"We were not able to save anything. From school uniforms to clothes and books, everything was buried in the rubble. We've been gradually recovering the items for the past year. It takes a minute to break it (house), but it takes time to recover the items. The poor can't get everything at once. Those with money can do it in one day."
Khushboo, resident of Pragati Maidan
Speaking to The Quint, 41-year-old Bhupinder Kumar, who owns a tea stall near the now-razed site, said life has not been the same ever since the demolitions.

"The past year has been extremely difficult. Initially, we were living in Sarai Kale Khan, but we had to vacate the house. We have changed houses 2-3 times in the past year. Sometimes, if we get late by 10-15 days in paying the rent, the owners lock us out of the house," Kumar alleged.

While no reason was specified by the authorities, residents believed that the 'clean-up' was done as part of the G20 summit.

"For so many years, they didn't break anything. Many leaders and politicians were taking this route frequently. Weren't they? They were. So what was so different during G20? They tried to crush the poor and fed the rich in silver and gold cutlery. They are crushing the children of their country like ants and are feeding foreigners..." alleged Khushboo, a homemaker, who lives with her husband and three children near the demolished site.

"You should first look after the children of your country, why foreigners? Go ask them for votes then."

Churiya Mohalla, Tughlakabad: April-May 2023

From 30 April to 1 May 2023, 5,000 bastis in the Churiya Mohalla near South Delhi's historical Tughlakabad Fort were demolished, affecting 2.5 lakh individuals.

The action was taken by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), which comes under the Union Ministry of Culture. In April 2023, the ASI cleared the settlement in the area after the Delhi High Court directed the government agency to remove encroachments in and around the Tughlakabad Fort.

"We spent that summer [of April 2023] in our broken house. After it was demolished, we cleaned and gathered every piece of the brick, because we were told that it was just done to show the government. We were told that we could rebuild the house in the same area... We can't afford to pay rent anywhere else."
Savita Kashyap, resident of Tughlakabad

Savita, who lost her job as a nanny post the demolition, now lives in a single-bedroom house with her husband and four children. "A person who earns Rs 15,000, has to pay Rs 5,000 rent, take care of school, tuition fees, household expenses, and electricity bill. How will we do it?" she asked.

Meanwhile, Renu, 49, a caregiver at a private agency, told The Quint that despite knocking on several doors, she and her family received no help from political parties.

"A lot of organisations helped us, but the government did nothing. Nothing. Whether it is the Congress or the BJP or the AAP, none of them did anything for us. They kept blaming each other," said Renu.

The Aam Aadmi Party's Tughlakabad MLA and South Delhi MP candidate Sahi Ram Pahalwan told The Quint:

"Any issue pertaining to land directly comes within the ambit of the BJP-led Union government. Both the DDA and ASI come under the Centre, and the BJP is responsible for the demolition drives. Through its actions, the BJP has shown that it is anti-poor. The AAP has always stood by the poor and has tried to help the people in whichever way possible. We tried to stop the demolitions but were unable to."
Sahi Ram Pahalwan, AAP leader

The Quint also reached out to Delhi BJP president Virendra Sachdeva and spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor for a response. This story will be updated once they respond.

Will this influence the way they vote in the 25 May Lok Sabha elections in Delhi? Watch the video to find out.

(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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