Dharamsala Slum Demolition : 300 families kicked out, left on roads in pre-monsoon rains with absolutely no rehabilitation
While we tried to talk to the local people the police harassed us and threatened to detain us if we tried to talk to the people. We were asked to leave the site without any explanation
DHARAMSALA– In an inhuman act, the Dharamsala Municipal Corporation (MCD) and administration on June 17 demolished the 30-years-old Charan Khad slum in Dharamsala city of district Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, without rehabilitating the dwellers. The administration unleashed police force for eviction, and is even threatening local activists who are trying to talk to or help these people. As a heinous act, the administration tricked the residents by showing them some sites to rehabilitate, but actually did not facilitate it at all. The building of newly formed MCD is planned at the evicted place.
Now, about 300 families including toddlers, infants and school going children of three decades old slum settlement in Dharamsala have been rendered homeless and have been living on the roads since the past three days, facing the rains without a shelter. With monsoon coming, these people are left to suffer with no roof to take shelter. All of it happened because of the callousness of the local district administration and Municipal authorities.
Credits: Video and Editing: Sumit Mahar, Himdhara Collective
Evicted families are mostly migrant workers. These families mostly belong to the Scheduled Castes, migrated from Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Administration is giving false statements in newspapers claiming that people have already been rehabilitated, and surprisingly some dailies are also publishing the same.
These people work as daily wage labourers on construction sites, as rag pickers, and street side vendors. Now, they have lost their shelter in a few hours, and have nowhere to go now. They are not able to go to work and are losing their daily wages too.
While the MCD claims that the administration was “following High Court orders”, no such order has been made public yet. The residents were given 10 day notice, but administration did not provide any rehabilitation. Planning for the demolition of the slum had started three months ago and the MCD had shown them alternate sites at villages, namely Gamru, Passu and Sarra. However, the locals at these sites chased them away with warning to not attempt settling their localities.
The corporation just showed us the sites with absolutely nothing there – no housing, sanitation, water facility. When we went to these villages, we were kicked out by the local people. They made it very clear that we would not be spared if we set up our homes there, said Raju bai, one of the displaced residents.
Raju came to Dharamsala when she was 16 years old. She got married to another migrant worker. She brought up her children here, all of whom went to school and now work in the city. She is almost 50 now and cannot believe that she has lost her only home.
Surprisingly, despite knowing that the resettlement near the proposed sites would face local opposition the Municipal corporation did not attempt any sort of mediation, nor was any effort made to look for alternate sites. Despite the advent of the monsoon, hundreds of families were thrown on the streets to fend for themselves.
Close to 115 children from the slum were studying at the government schools and many others in local community schools run in the slum itself which are now demolished. It is appalling that the district authorities have unleashed police power on the evictees. The police is intimidating not just the displaced community but any independent person attempting to talk to them or provide support.
While we tried to talk to the local people the police harassed us and threatened to detain us if we tried to talk to the people. We were asked to leave the site without any explanation, said local activists based in Palampur who visited the demolished site today on June 20.
It is not unclear as to why the administration is now interested in clearing out the slum, which has existed for so many years. Dharamsala, which has provided refuge to many people, has suddenly turned its back on its poorest residents, who have put their blood and sweat to build the city, its roads and homes. In a bid to turn into a ‘smart’ city, the so-called ‘divine’ Dharamsala seems to have lost its soul and humanity.
All Photos: Himdhara Collective