In Delhi’s Jahangirpuri, bulldozers leave trail of despair

New Delhi: One was selling cold drinks to police until April 19. Another had been running a store in the building where he was born 40 years ago. A third was saving up for the festival. None had any prior notice, none were given the right to respond — all were scrambling on April 20 evening to pick up the pieces of what was left.

Just hours earlier, as two CRPF officers took position atop Akbar’s home in Jahangirpuri and complained about the harsh sun, the 35-year-old shop owner had immediately split a red flex board into two to make a temporary sunshade. “All I asked was whether the encroachment drive will damage my shop and they promised me it was against scrap dealers,” Akbar said.

Barely an hour later, all that a bulldozer left of his small shop were squashed cigarette packets and cold drinks covered in dust. And all that this family of four was left with was an earthen piggy bank with coins and spare notes.

A few hundred meters away, Dinesh Kumar was adding up the losses, the metal awning over his mobile repair shop now a mere number: “Rs 50,000.”

“But the biggest loss is here,” said the 40-year-old, pointing to his heart. “I had asked police personnel last night if my shop would be demolished, and if I should move everything out. But they had said no…Because of the mistakes of a few people, all of us are being punished.”

The Delhi municipal corporation’s snap anti-encroachment demolition drive, a few days after a Hanuman Jayanti procession in the area sparked communal violence, has left in its wake a trail of devastation and despair, cutting across fault lines.

Akbar’s wife, Rahima shows an MCD vendor certificate issued in 2021. “We did nothing illegal. Why were we punished? This is our livelihood. For you, this may just be kabaad (scrap),” said the 30-year-old.

Dinesh Kumar opened his mobile repair shop in November 2020, “after working for 18 years in a managerial role in an NGO”. “I resigned last year because I was inspired by the Government’s push for entrepreneurship, and wanted to develop my own business,” he said.

The metal awning over his store, a “recent investment”, has been damaged. “What have they achieved? What have they proved with this? They could have just asked us to remove the awnings and we would have done it,” he said. “The shop was just some months old, but I was born in this building and have lived there all my life.”

Hit by communal violence days earlier, Jahangirpuri in North West Delhi saw seven bulldozers roll into the neighborhood on April 20 on orders of the BJP-led North Delhi Municipal Corporation, razing parts of several structures, including the exterior gate of a place of worship.

The demolition, which started around 10:15 am, went on for two hours despite the Supreme Court’s directions at 11 am that the status quo be maintained. (The Indian Express)

Jahangirpuri in North West Delhi saw seven bulldozers roll into the area on April 20.

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