The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike has confirmed that the demolition drive undertaken in the area of Kariyammana Agrahara in Bengaluru, rendering many families homeless was unauthorized.
Around 200 tin and tarpaulin sheds were taken down in Kariyammana Agrahara and approximately 500 similar structures were razed down in Deverabeesanahalli.
Amid the cacophony of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Narayan Swamy, Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE), Mahadevpura Zone, on complaints filed by the residentsof the area, carried out the demolition despite not having any authority to carry out the same on private land.
“We have relieved him (AEE) and sent him to his parent department – Public Works Department (PWD). We will also be writing to the secretary of the PWD department to take action against him including that of suspension. The demolitions were unauthorized”, BBMP Commissioner Anil Kumar informed.
The residents of the area demolished were mostly daily wage earners and social media videos had claimed that illegal Bangladeshi immigrants were sheltered in the settlement. The video of the demolition was also shared on Twitter by Mahadevpura’s BJP MLA Aravind Limbavali where he too reiterated the stance alleging that the residents were illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
The concerned authorities were instructed to take action against it. Officials are reviewing and taking action. Residents from other areas have settled here, some of them are suspect to be illegal immigrants of Bangladesh. 3/3
— Aravind Limbavali (@ArvindLBJP) January 12, 2020
Citizenship papers in place
Upon investigation it has emerged that most residents of the settlement were from different parts of the country, including Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and even north Karnataka.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Mohammed Nur Hussan Sheikh said, “They came in search of Bangladeshis. But even after I told them I have my NRC certificate from Assam, they went ahead and demolished my shop where I lived.”
He added that the civic officials went ahead with the demolition “without checking our documents, although the people who live here are mostly from Assam and West Bengal.”
“Why would we come here if we had sufficient jobs back home? There are even people from Karnataka here,” he rued.
Nobody knows if the evacuees have been rehabilitated. Some people like Nayeem Islam are now returning to their homes in other states. Islam who is a BCom student in the Bengaluru is now returning home to Ghaziabad. He says, “My parents left some time ago. Now I will join them since I don’t think I can study when my citizenship is questioned at every turn.”
Deccan Herald reports that the police claim they cannot spend lakhs on document verification by sending a team to West Bengal. A police officer at the HAL police station mentioned that the West Bengal police did not cooperate with them in document verification of the “migrants” in the past as well. “They are not even providing facilities to stay there to verify the documents of these people,” he said.
“We had spent Rs 5 to Rs 6 lakh when we took 60 Bangladeshis to West Bengal, but they refused to accept them, saying they are not receiving any Bangladeshis from Karnataka,” said the officer, adding there are a lot of practical problems in deporting them.”
Claiming that the police had told shanty owners to not allow anyone to stay there without proper verification he said, “They have come from Bangladesh and have Aadhaar card from West Bengal. None of these documents are verified. We told the owners that without verification it is illegal to allow them to stay there. We cannot allow them just because they have Voter ID and Aadhaar card. What is the guarantee that these documents are genuine? There should be proper verification, but we cannot do that.”
Forced to flee
Just like Nayeem Islam and others who are being forced to return to their homes, Akram B, a labour contractor who got 40 people from West Bengal told the New Indian Express that two of the 40 labourers he had gotten to Bengaluru were picked up by the police. He said that the police threatened the group and have demanded Rs. 50,000 surety for them and it was because of this reason that they had all decided to return to West Bengal.
Other contractors too echoed Akram’s sentiment. They said the police had come to their sheds, asking them to leave the city and the residents said that if this was the treatment that was going to be meted out to them every single time, they would be keen to leave.
Karnataka HC orders interim stay on demolition drive
On Wednesday, the Karnataka HC ordered an interim stay on the demolition drive that left hundreds homeless in Bellandur’s Kariyammana Agrahara. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) challenging the BBMP’s eviction-demolition drive last weekend at Kariyammana Agrahara, Kundalahalli and Deverabeesanahalli in Bellandur, reported The News Minute.
PUCL in its PIL contested this presumption that the colonies that were demolished had illegal Bangladeshi immigrants living there. The PIL read, “After studying the documents of the people residing in the settlement, it was found that many of the residents were from north Karnataka, and many others were also from Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, and Bihar,” Vinay Sreenivasa, an advocate with Alternative Law Forum (ALF) in Bengaluru told TNM.
The HC questioned the seemingly ‘invisible source’ of the order that was given to carry out the demolition and asked the Bengaluru police to submit a detailed report explaining the grounds and the rules under which the demolition drive was carried out over the weekend.
This is not the first time that migrant workers in Bengaluru are facing such a testing situation. Since the talks of a nation-wide NRC and CAA have been doing the rounds, the migrant workers in Bengaluru have been shunned and ostracized by society.
In November 2019, many housing complexes in Bengaluru decided to not employ Bengali speaking people as labourers or domestic help, especially the minorities. Due to the same, many Indian citizens have been targeted and have been forced to lose their livelihoods.
A detention centre is being built in the state of Karnataka and many false cases have been lodged against the Bengali speaking Muslim labourers implicating them as illegal immigrants. Though most of these have been quashed by the courts, the fear of continually being driven away from their homes does not disappear.
It was also reported that in the same month, the Bengaluru police were in the process of deporting 59 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants – mostly women and children, who were picked up during a raid carried out in Bellandur, Ramamurthy Nagar and Marathahalli. The alleged immigrants were kept in detention centers and were to be handed over directly to the Border Security Force (BSF) without following the due process citing a ‘delay’ in the procedure of deportation.
Legal professionals and others supporting the anti-CAA protests have cried hoarse about how the implementation of that Law, combined with the NRC will be disastrous for the informal labour force. The above are just a handful of examples of the same and if the same attitude is extended nationwide, the results are sure to be disastrous.
NRC to hit India’s informal labour force
59 ‘illegal immigrants’ from Bengaluru to be deported
Bengali speaking workers face likely ban in Bengaluru apartments, what’s next?
The game of hits and misses: crackdown on “illegal” immigrants