One year after the demolition, Khori Gaon residents still wait to be rehabilitated

Medha Patkar lends her support to Khori Gaon’s resistance

On 3rd September 2022, Medha Patkarji visited Khori Gaon and addressed people who had been displaced from their homes. After Vimal Bhai’s demise in August, the community felt a big void as he was a fierce and persistent voice against the injustice done to Khori Gaon residents. During this juncture, Medhaji’s presence brought some new energy and determination to the community.

Medhaji highlighted that the lived reality of the Khori Gaon people is not in isolation, but the urban poor are facing similar challenges all over the country. On the one hand, adivasi communities are fighting for their forest land, which is being encroached on in the name of development (mining, industries, hotels, jogging parks etc.) and on the other hand, here in Khori Gaon, houses were demolished on the name of forest conservation. Khori Gaon residents did not get time or space to fight to save their homes. She argues that if the land belongs to the government, then how is it not people’s land? Unless the government is only for the industrialists and rich and poor people, adivasi communities are considered lesser than humans.

‘Jo zameen sarkari woh zameen humari hain’

She also visited and analysed the conditions in the rehabilitation flats – Dabua Colony – that are being provided to Khori Gaon evictees as per court orders. However, out of the almost 10,000 families, only 1009 have been considered eligible by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad. And even within this group, it has been difficult for them to shift there as the place is inhabitable and the deposit amount is high for many. There is no water connection, no electricity, the tiles are falling apart, windows are broken, there are missing doors and other problems. The government constructed the buildings under their JNNURM central scheme. So, why is it so poorly constructed? The government should be held responsible for the dilapidated conditions. All those who received possession letters should write to MCF regarding the inhabitable condition of the houses. Additionally, they should receive the solatium till the houses are repaired. Women should go to MCF office and question them.

“ Naari ke sehbaag ke bina har badlao adhoora hai”.

Medha Patkarji talked about the 37-year-old Narmada Andolan, that finished 37 years on 16th August. While 50 thousand people were given rehabilitation, it has been a long fight and continues. Similarly, Khori Gaon’s struggle will be etched in the pages of history. Some of the residents from Khori Gaon committed suicide even before the demolition of their homes out of fear and helplessness. Every 2 hours, a farmer dies by suicide in India, as per the 2021 NCRB report. All these deaths and suicides are in the name of development. That is why we need to keep fighting.   ‘Sangharsh zaari hai’. And it will be a long fight.

We have been termed as ‘Andolanjeevi’. Yes, we are Andolanjeevi. Why wouldn’t we be? We are not going to get our rights without the andolan. Like our Khori Gaon struggle, people are fighting and revolting for their rights all over the country. We will continue the fire ignited by Vimal Bhai. He had a long engagement with movements in Narmada. Without arms, he revolted against injustice, embracing the values of non-violence that Gandhi used during the freedom struggle. Every movement needs support and has to be kept alive in this country for a long time. Recently, the 3 farm bills had to be revoked by the government because of the farmer’s protests. So, let us not forget why we are fighting and for whom. “Ham hamara haq maang rahe hain, nahi kisi se bheekh maangte”. We are asking for our rights, not begging. The campaign ‘Har ghar tiranga’ is shallow as what about those whose homes were demolished? In the lockdown, while some people lost their homes, employment and lives, on the other hand, the incomes of some people got doubled.

However, let us not forget to acknowledge the little wins we have received across the way in this fight. In the beginning, it seemed we would not receive anything, and now we are receiving rehabilitation for 1009 people through the court’s order. The earlier cut-off date was 2003 and has been shifted to 2021. However, the fight for the missing people from the eligibility list continues.

Yashi consultancy data has 6663 recorded houses, but this was not considered by MCF nor put forth in the court. Every resident of Khori Gaon, whether they shift to Dabua or not, should receive solatium as their houses were demolished, livelihood opportunities taken away, and the education of children hampered, and this has forced them into a vicious cycle of poverty.

Most residents want to be rehabilitated on the same land in Khori Gaon. And we should keep demanding in-situ rehabilitation; however, we should not leave what we have been offered. As there might be a situation, we might not be given even this. We should demand improvements in the Dabua flats and will move into these flats only when we feel we can live there with dignity. And we demand that solatium is provided to us till the Dabua flats have been made habitable.

“Datenge, nahi hatange”

“Vikas chahiye, Vinaash nahi”