Haldwani: Supreme Court Halts Uttarakhand Eviction

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New Delhi:

Thousands of people who faced the prospect of becoming homeless in the midst of a harsh north Indian winter won a major relief from the Supreme Court on Thursday as it suspended eviction operations on railway land in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani.

“50,000 people cannot be uprooted overnight… this is a humanitarian problem, some viable solution needs to be found,” the Supreme Court said, as it stayed an Uttarakhand High Court order that allowed the eviction of nearly 50,000 people. About 4,000 live in homes after a years-long lawsuit.

The court stopped any construction in the area and sought a response from the Railways and the Uttarakhand government. It has been reported that the case will be heard again next month.

Supreme Court Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices SA Nazir and PS Narasimha took up the case a day after activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan made a formal request.

The order comes as a big relief to residents who have been holding candlelight vigils, sit-ins and prayers to stop the evictions.

The area covers a 2-km stretch of land near Haldwani Railway Station – Gafur Basti, Dholak Basti and Indira Nagar in Banabhulpura area.

Apart from houses – almost half the families claim to have land leases – the area has even four government schools, 11 private schools, a bank, two overhead water tanks, 10 mosques and four temples, besides shops built over the decades.

The matter reached the court in 2013 when a petition was originally about illegal sand mining in a river near the area.

Following a court order on December 20 after a lengthy litigation, the district administration issued a newspaper notice asking people to carry their belongings by January 9.

The BJP blamed the government for taking action against an area where most of the residents are Muslim, activists and politicians also joined the protests.

Senior Congress leader and former chief minister Harish Rawat held an hour-long ‘Maun Braat’ (vow of silence) at his residence in the state capital Dehradun.

“Uttarakhand is a spiritual state,” he said, “If 50,000 people, including children, pregnant women, old men and women, are forced to leave their homes and come out on the streets, it will be a very sad scene,” he said.

Mr Dhami said his government would respect the Supreme Court’s decision.

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