The abuse, mistreatment and erasure of the residents of Khori Gaon in the name of forest conservation is emblematic of the challenges that marginalised residents (being termed as ‘encroachers’) face across the country. Rather than protecting the forests of the Aravallis, it is more about getting rid of the poor, driven by the ‘world-class city’ narrative of bourgeois environmentalism.
By Ishita Chatterjee, The Bastion
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What was once a vast and dense human settlement cleared to make way for a forest was incidentally being used as a parking space, as recently as a week ago. In March 2022, the Haryana state cleared a portion of the land on which Khori Gaon stood to create a parking space for the Suraj Kund International Fair, organised by the Surajkund Mela Authority and Haryana Tourism.
At every step, the Haryana government has tried to mislead the court, twist the arguments and criminalise the marginalised population while they have continuously engaged in forest violations. While the displacement was carried out in the name of forest conservation, the state has failed to prove its intent of re-greening. Instead, it has engaged in activities that expose its capitalist mindset. Additionally, the Supreme court has failed to protect the rights of the poor and has refused to hold the state accountable. The manner in which the Supreme Court has handled the demolition and rehabilitation processes disregards previous court judgements and Article 21 of the Constitution which clearly mentions residents have the right to housing, livelihood, health care, education and dignity of life—even if they do not possess property documents.