July 07, 2024

Uttarakhand: Protest Demands Land Ownership Rights and Halt to Demolitions by the BJP Govt

A BIG demonstration was held at the Dehradun Secretariat on June 27, organised by various worker, political, and social organisations, including CITU, CPI(M), Chetna Andolan, AITUC, Kisan Sabha, Mahila Samiti, Sarvodaya Mandal, and SFI. Hundreds of activists from these organisations participated in the protest, which was supported by the Congress, SP, CPI, BSP, AIYU, Aandolankari Parishad, and Mahila Manch.

The protest was held to demand land ownership rights and to stop the Dhami led BJP government's demolition drive. The speakers emphasized that the right to shelter is a fundamental right for every individual, which the government cannot take away. They recalled that the government had promised to grant ownership rights to settlements, panchayats, and tea garden inhabitants after a public movement in 2016. In 2018, the government enacted a law to protect these settlements, effective until October 2024. However, despite this, the government is bent on demolishing these settlements under various pretexts.

The speakers cited recent examples in Dehradun, such as Chuna Bhatta, Deepnagar, Barighat, and Kathbangla, where hundreds of poor families were rendered homeless without rehabilitation or compensation, while large encroachments by influential people and government properties were spared.

The proposed elevated road project through the largest slums of Dehradun, Rispana, and Bindal, threatens to displace thousands of families. The government has labeled these long-established communities as encroachers, thereby evading responsibility for their resettlement and compensation.

The speakers asserted that progressive Left political and social organisations in the state have been agitating on these issues for a long time. Thousands of signatures have been collected and sent to the chief minister, with many more to be submitted.

The key demands of the protest were:

  • Immediate halt to all illegal demolition drives. Any eviction process must be conducted according to the law.
  • Ensure rehabilitation arrangements for all poor and landless people before any displacement.
  • Provide compensation to families whose homes were demolished without following legal procedures and take action against responsible officials. Compensation should be given to the family of Sonam Gabbar Singh, who died during the Kathbangla demolition drive.
  • Enact a law to grant ownership rights to all settlements as promised.
  • Stop the conspiracy to evict the poor under the guise of the elevated road project and ensure provisions for rehabilitation and compensation.
  • Halt all forms of harassment of street vendors and allow them to continue their livelihoods until vendor zones are established.
  • Adhere to the National Green Tribunal's May 13, 2024, order, ensuring evictions are carried out legally, with transparency and opportunities for personal hearings and appeals.
  • Recognise and compensate properties damaged during the demolition drive if the occupants were living there before 2016.
  • Enforce the legal process for any eviction or property damage and provide compensation accordingly.
  • Halt the illegal transfer of land in Chandra Shekhar Azad Nagar (Bhatta) and ensure its rightful owners are recognised.
  • Identify the missing Uttarakhand movement activists.
  • Curb corruption and irregularities in the construction workers' schemes.
  • Address the issues of anganwadi workers, Bhojanmatas, ASHA workers, and e-rickshaw drivers.
  • Withdraw the privatisation decision of Dehradun's historic Gandhi Park.

The memorandum was handed over to city magistrate, Pratyush Singh in front of the secretariat, who assured necessary action.

The protest began at Gandhi Park in Dehradun and proceeded through Ghanta Ghar, Rajpur Road, Ashley Hall, and concluded at the state secretariat with a public meeting addressed by leaders from various organisations and parties.