January 22, 2023

Encroachment allegations on Haldwani residents are untrue, finds CPI(M) delegation

THE Nainital High Court, on December 20, 2022, ordered nearly 80,000 people living in the settlement next to the Railway Station in Haldwani ,  to evacuate the place, saying that they were encroaching into the land of the Railways.

The orders came as shock to the families who had settled there centuries ago. This settlement has 4,563 houses, 14 mosques, four temple Dharamshalas, two government intermediate colleges, many government primary schools, madrasas, a government hospital, two water tanks made by the Jal Sansthan, a government Primary School Made in 1935, a bank etc.

The court orders to vacate their lands in extremely cold weather agitated the residents leading to the heating up of the political atmosphere there. They staged a dharna opposing the order, and the Muslims among them recited prayers at the dharna site as part of the protests. While the majority of the residents are Muslims, there is about 10 percent of Hindu population also affected by the orders, and they are a part of the protests. However, the protests were painted in a communal colour by some sections.

A five-member fact-finding team from CPI(M) led by state secretary, Rajendra Singh Negi reached Banbhulpura, Haldwani, to get to the root of the issue. The team, including  Kamruddin, Purushottam Badoni, Yousuf Tiwari and president of BGVS Uttarakhand Vijay Bhatt, met the locals and enquired about their conditions.

Upon enquiry, it has been found that the Kumaon region, including this particular area, was ruled by the Britishers in the 19th century and that it was used for timber business as it was convenient to transport the wood from the nearby forests via the river running close by. 

It was found that Daan Singh Maldaar was the most celebrated contractor in those days, and the sleepers made from the wood were stored at Chauhan Pata. Due to this, Chauhan Pata's name later turned into Kathagodam, as ‘kath’ (hardwood) was stored there. 

The Pathan workers were brought there from Afghanistan and Balochistan for labour had settled in this area. 

A 150-year-old Dargah of Peer Baba Chirag Ali Shah is situated here in Azadnagar Banbhulpura, and right in front of it is a weary graveyard where the afghan-style graves can still be seen. The Britishers donated this land to them, and the related documents are with the Imam of the Dargah. This emphasises that people have been living here for a long time. 

In the British days, the workers' residence was known as the Majdoor line, which is the reason 17 number Line still exists. 

It was only later, on April 24, 1884, that the Railways were established here to transport the wood further from here, which at that time was regulated by the private company. The line workers were already living here, even before the railways regulated by the private company came here.

The resident of line number 17, Rehmat Khan, says that they have all the documents of the land.  The documents of the custodian are with the freehold, and they also have a registry. He further adds that after the partition in 1947, the lands of the people who went to Pakistan called the ‘enemy land’, were bought by their ancestors from the government of India, of which they carry evidence as well. 

There is no evidence that proves that the land is of the Railways department, the residents say. 

People living in this Basti have been paying the house tax to Nagar Palika and electricity bills for decades. 

Even Gafoor Basti is said to be an encroachment, but the people ask how 29 acres of railway land became 79 acres and call it a mystery. 

On these grounds, the people of the area went to the Supreme Court, which on January 5, 2023, ordered a stay on the High Court order. 

The CPI(M) delegation congratulated the residents of the settlement and exhorted them to wage the struggle collectively.