This is our home, where will we go, ask Pak. Hindu families staying in north Delhi camp

3 months ago 17

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Migrants fear displacement as Centre tells High Court they are encroaching upon defence land

As many as 200 Pakistani Hindu migrant families living in north Delhi’s Adarsh Nagar at the Delhi Jal Board Maidan are a worried lot. Living without basic amenities for over eight years, they are now facing a threat of displacement as the Centre, in an affidavit, has told the Delhi High Court that they are encroaching upon defence land.

The migrants, all of whom moved here from Hyderabad in Pakistan’s Sindh province after the camp was set up in 2013, lament that they have been denied Indian citizenship despite more than a year and a half of the Citizenship Amendment Act being passed by Parliament. Now, with the shelter that had helped them seek refuge under threat, they fear they will have nowhere to go unless the authorities assist them.

“I didn’t know about the High Court order but if we are shifted out, I hope the authorities make an alternative arrangement for us. We haven’t been able to get our Indian citizenship; if we had, we would have been able to buy a flat somewhere and live independently,” said Ramji, who migrated four years ago along with his family of nine.


Pointing towards a small bulb attached to a bamboo stick hanging from his thatched roof, the 55-year-old construction worker said: “There has been no supply of electricity here ever since the camp was set up... Some families who can afford the cost have attached solar panels to their huts to operate their electrical appliances.”

Ramji added that the residents, through the village pradhan, have sent several requests to the authorities to facilitate electricity supply but all in vain. “We have lived here for several years now, this is our home... We will feel bad leaving it if we are told to. But I hope we are given a shelter,” he said.

The Centre, while opposing the plea in the High Court seeking electricity supply to the camp, had specified that it had been consistently following up the “removal of unauthorised occupation/encroachment on defence land” with the district administration and the police.

Hope of resettlement

Living in the camp with his family of 22 members for eight years, 55-year-old Ram Chandra said despite the lack of amenities the camp has been his home and the residents are his neighbours. “It’s in the hands of the authorities to resettle us. I hope they will look at our plight and give us a better place to live. If not, then it would be a better option to return to Pakistan where we are already ostracised,” Chandra said.

For 34-year-old Ganga Das, who migrated to India four years ago, getting Indian citizenship is an afterthought as all he and his family need is a place to live with basic amenities. “Out of the vast expanse of land available in the Capital, can’t we even be allowed to live here?” asked Das, who sells smartphone covers for a living. “If they shift us from here, they will keep resettling us and we will not be allowed to reside anywhere,” he said.

Resting on a charpoy outside his hut, Dhanraj, 45, who migrated from Pakistan eight years ago, said the authorities allotted them the space and they should be responsible for providing them another shelter. “We are somehow surviving despite lack of electricity supply... If the authorities start looking the other way and take away our homes, we will have no option but to kill ourselves here,” he said.

His wife, 45-year-old Meera, said the authorities can’t just say that the land has been encroached upon and hence the residents should be deprived of basic amenities. “Several requests for electricity supply have fallen on deaf ears...can you imagine it’s been eight years since the camp was set up and we don’t have electricity,” she said.

Sonari, 30, said the authorities cannot simply abandon them and ask them to leave this place. “We have set up our livelihood here after fleeing discrimination in Pakistan... We know no place other than this,” she said.

In response to a petition moved before the Delhi High Court, which sought direction for including Aadhaar card and a long-term Visa as sufficient proof by Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission in respect of occupancy of the premises, the Centre had said that the plea was “misconceived” as the camps set up on the land are “illegal” and have been established by encroaching upon the land owned by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

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