Demolitions in Aya Nagar, Delhi: Thomas Crowley

Guest Post (and photographs) by THOMAS CROWLEY

The media is all praise for the central government’s rescue efforts in Kashmir, despite the evident hollowness of the government’s claims to heroism. But the press has little to say about the brutal destruction authored by the government in its capital city. Thursday, September 11, saw another demolition drive in a city that has seen far too many of them, from the Emergency to the Commonwealth Games. The demolition took place in the South Delhi neighborhood of Aya Nagar, where residents say about 250 houses were destroyed.

Aya Nagar 1

The comparison between Kashmir and Delhi is one the residents themselves repeatedly invoked. Why, several asked, was everyone praising the government for saving people whose houses were destroyed in floods, when, at the same time, the same government was bulldozing the homes that hundreds of people had painstakingly built over the course of many years? Among the residents, another common refrain was the total absence of media coverage of the demolitions. Despite many attempts to contact various media outlets, the only publicity that has appeared so far, say residents, is a two-line article in a single newspaper, and even this article drastically underestimates the number of houses destroyed.

If media outlets had shown up, they would have heard chilling stories of the demolition. There was no notice given to the residents, no time to prepare for the onslaught. An elderly woman was hit by a crumbling wall; some said that she fell into a coma, while others said she has since passed away. A pregnant woman died in the wreckage. Another woman suffered a heart attack when she saw her home being destroyed. Many more sustained injuries as they were caught unawares by the demolition. Others were injured by the police as they tried to protest, including one woman who was struck by a lathi and fractured her arm.

Aya Nagar 2

In the previous days, rumors had swirled around the neighborhood, speculation about possible evictions, but they lacked any specificity. Some residents were told that there would be a meeting on the 10th to discuss the possibility of a demolition, but when they reached the meeting place, they found it abandoned. They thus dismissed the rumors. On the morning of the 11th, before the evictions, men came around to remove the electricity meters. It seems the electricity companies knew about the upcoming demolitions, but the residents themselves were never told.

When the police finally arrived, the residents asked them to see the court order or at least a notice for the demolition, but the police refused. Only after the demolition did some residents hear that a notice had been given many days back to the “dealer,” from whom the residents had bought their plots of land. The dealer claimed that he owned the land, that is was his ancestral property. Apparently, it was gram sabha land that was not his to sell. The dealer has absconded, clearly fearing the wrath of the residents.

Aya Nagar 3

This is not the first time the residents have faced government bulldozers. The same lanes were razed in 2010. But after that, the police did not return. They allowed the residents to rebuild their houses and rebuild their lives in the neighborhood. Almost all the residents had piped water and metered electricity. They were finally beginning to regain a sense of normality and security when the police descended once again.

Just months ago, in the run-up to the Delhi elections, politicians were coming to the neighborhood, promising to build a road and improve the water supply. Now, no politician is to be found in the area. “The area has developed over more than a decade under the watch of the administration, with water supply, electricity bills, voter IDs and Aadhar cards issued on these addresses. MLA candidates have regularly been coming to the area asking for the people’s votes. However, it is only now that it has struck them that the colony is illegal,” says Munni, a resident of the area for nearly a decade, now busy trying to gather her few belongings from the debris.

Aya Nagar 4

Many are still in shock, as they salvage what they can from the wreckage, while balancing responsibilities of family and work. But a sense of anger and defiance is also starting to pulse through the neighborhood. On Friday, hundreds gathered in a nearby park to express their anger and plan for the challenges ahead. With the threat of even more demolitions in the coming days, the residents are determined to hold on to their rights and their property.

At this early stage, much is still uncertain: who ordered the demolition, whether it will continue in adjoining lanes, how the government will respond to the rising voices of outrage coming from the neighborhood. These uncertainties only highlight the importance of standing in solidarity with the residents of Aya Nagar as they continue their fight against the destructive capacities of the state.

 Thomas Crowley is a writer interested in issues of urban ecology. He lives in Delhi

14 thoughts on “Demolitions in Aya Nagar, Delhi: Thomas Crowley”

  1. The large-scale and brutal demolition in Aya Nagar shows how the govt. is behaving liķe British Raj. Hundreds of delhi police, CRPF and BSF soldiers were deployed to carry out the ruthless demolition in Aya Nagar.
    The homeless residents are living on the debris since they have nowhere to go.
    It’s not a natural calamity but created by the powerful govt. against the powerless people.

  2. It is indeed deplorable that the prime minister who has promised to provide a house to every poor person in Delhi would mercilessly deprive so many poor of their home and hearth without providing them an alternative. This country is no place for the poor. Not many Delhiites can live without the comfort provided by the poor through their selfless work. I hope the authorities that be show some compassion to the disadvantaged.

  3. This is not the way Govt should work,there should proper notification or fencing if govt land is there on the other hand RTI act is there,still GOVT officials r not giving information,AA gaye aache Din.

    1. It takes ones whole life to earn hardened money and buy a house for self. No one will go n catch those corrupt politicians n policemen n mcd officials n land mafia who faked n allowed people to build homes in these colonies. Its only the poor who will suffer. Ache don kabi nai aa sakte yahan.. poor will be exploited n become poorerst n those corrupt people who have taken bribes hav become richer. Where was the police..mcd.. n ol these depts who claim its there land earlier ?? Did they not have courage to fight wid land mafia. . All these depts have joined hands wid land mafias and sold plots to poor people n earned huge amnt of money n nw they r trying legal procedure to get land back bcz thr z no record of thr sins . Wake up ol u poor people n fight for it.

  4. Why is the police not being used to evict ex-MP’s who refuse to vacate their government houses?

  5. In Aya Nagar there is several problem and encroachment starting from the Metro station to till every where but govt. official had not see this because the people pay him bribe and powerful person encroached the road. I personally visit the site of demolition there is not any sign board place that this land belong to govt. extra. The poor people had caught by the land mafia by telling that this our share land not govt.land. why should they not any action against the main guilty person who is selling the land. Because they take bribe from him, the police constable came to area regularly and take the bribe and allow to people built the house, why there is not any action taken against them. If they stop the work at early stage then there is not this type of situation happen. There more than 250 house had been demolished but you can not see this news in any media so we need to understand that who is behind this. there is not any government order for demolition all the thing has been done to pleased some land mafia.

  6. How can modi govt make acchai din by doing this all nonsense things.
    If govt want to demolish than first they have to make some alternative for the residents ither they have to take action when these colony’s are in construction progress.
    This is realy verry shame for our govt.
    Private builder are doing whtever they wnt to do in any area but what abou aam admi?.

  7. Government should take the prime action against dealers those are involved in illegal properties and use to cheat the decent people by promising nothing to happen. Also a prior notice to be provided to people about his/her property and process of demolitions. People should paid their cost of property along with interest and provisions to settle into new location(s) before demolition of his/her property.

    This is really very shame for our govt., our leaders, and our officers those involved in this type of activities. Thinking about how they will get punishment? Who will take action against them?

  8. there is no media to cover this brutal destruction & on the other hand our governor and other high rank officials are happy to announce the news that they have vacated 70 bhigas of gram sabha land . ( there is no one to help the people whose houses are destroyed ) . dont know where these gram sabha was when the land was sold & houses were build. Is is possible that public can buy gram sabha land & then carry out constructions on it & gram sabha has no news about it ??? sounds stupid . Gram sabha themselevs have joined hands with land mafias and sold lands to poor people & now they are claiming it through a legal procedure. Not done man. And where is Mr Modi & his govt now . KYA AB JANTA MAAF KAR DEGI….MAAF NAI KAREGI JANTA ..NAHI KAREGI

  9. govt responsible for destruction in Aya nagar with various departments responsible for enforcement passing the buck and … Land mafia….

  10. I believe only land mafia is responsible for this. They have sold several disputed plots without any
    paper work. Hence, govt. should take legal action against them instead of vacating poor people, who bought this plot.

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