Haldwani land encroachments case: The Uttarakhand High Court’s order to demolish over 4,000 homes, several schools, hospitals and mosques on the railway-owned land see a massive protest erupt leading to Supreme Court intervention. Supreme Court was to hear a petition against planned eviction. In the latest addition to the case, Supreme Court stays the directions of Uttarakhand HC on the removal of encroachments from 29 acres of railway land in Haldwani.
The people of Banbhoolpura in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani received a public notice in newspapers from the railways, asking them to free the land near the train station for development projects and also authorised “use of force” to evict. The anti-encroachment drive, in the area, is commonly called Gaffur Basti.
According to officials, the anti-encroachment drive is lengthening about 2.2 km of railway land at Haldwani station. Falling under the Izzatnagar division of the North Eastern Railway, the land – from 80.710 to 82.900 km – in Lal Kuan to Kathgodam (LKU-KGM) section has been under encroachment already.
The Plea of the residents
The plea filed in the Supreme Court stated, “It is submitted that the High Court has gravely erred in not appreciating that the alleged Demarcation Report dated April 7, 2021 placed before it by the Railway Authorities, was a hollow sham that revealed no demarcation whatsoever. Despite extracting the covering letter of the Demarcation Report in the impugned order, the actual contents of the Report that only contained the names and addresses of all the residents, were not gone into by the High Court.”
The residents contended the “arbitrary and illegal” approach adopted by the railways and state authorities as well as the upholding of the same by the high court is a violation of their right to shelter. The petitioners claimed they have valid documents that clearly establish their ownership.
“It is further submitted that the High Court ought to have given due consideration to all these documents instead of making allegations of vote bank politics against the State.
Additionally, the names of the local residents have been recorded in the municipal records in the house tax register and they are paying the house tax regularly,” they said.
See How closely the #Railways land is encroached in #Haldwani. Clearly can be seen that this illegal settlement. Politicians who r responsible for this, sd also be punished. How these people migrated here must be looked n sent back to their native home#HaldwaniProtest #ColdWave pic.twitter.com/PfXHMMQTdM
— Jasmeen Kaur (@JasmeenIndian) January 5, 2023
The Politics surrounding the case
Former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat also held a one-hour silent protest at his home in Dehradun against the planned clearance of encroachments in Banbhoolpura following a Uttarakhand High Court order.
Congress MLA from Haldwani Sumit Hridayesh said the Railways came up with an imaginary survey and the government did not attempt to protect the interest of the residents in the court.
Samajwadi Party sent a delegation to the Haldwani protest site on Wednesday. “How does the land belong to the railway? Whom did it buy it from? People have been living on it for more than 100 years,” Moradabad MP ST Hasan leading the delegation said.
The BJP is opposing the protest and said a Hindu-Muslim colour has been given. “Unfortunate that an entire ecosystem is at work to paint a High Court-ordered eviction drive in Haldwani into an ‘anti-muslim’ agenda. What’s worse is that this is being fanned by Cong & S.P. Is this ‘Bharat Jodo’ @RahulGandhi and @yadavakhilesh?” BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla said.
A Professor turned the whole issue into a Muslim-affected case only, which is not the case as all the residents are affected from different communities too.
Thousands of Muslim women in Haldwani, India, protesting against the regime’s planned demolition of nearly 4500 Muslim houses, branding them encroachers of the government land! pic.twitter.com/p7lvdIU7UL
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) January 3, 2023
On Tuesday night, Banbhoolpura residents took out a candlelight march. The protesters said the High Court order will leave them homeless and this will directly affect the future of their children.
Listening to girls of #Haldwani fight for their schools, their community and pride is very reassuring.
Strong, heartfelt, impressive voices of awakened India.. pic.twitter.com/a4g1GrwiCV
— Gautam Kashyap (@Gautam_Kashyap3) January 5, 2023
The plea to the Supreme Court
A bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justices S A Nazeer and PS Narasimha upheld the plea for hearing after advocate Prashant Bhushan mentioned it. Prashant Bhushan informed the bench about another plea filed by Haldwani’s Mohalla Nai Basti residents earlier, which was scheduled to come up on Thursday. The bench agreed to tag the matter and called for an urgent hearing on the case.