Goons Threaten Dhobi Ghat Slum-Dwellers in Delhi

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Photo 1: Area occupied by Nazmeen

A month ago, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had demolished the hutments of Dhobi Ghat at the banks of river Yamuna

Mohd Aasif | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Women of Dhobi Ghat slums of Batla House area here Friday filed a written complaint against some locals at the Jamia Nagar police station, claiming that goons abused them verbally, threatened to kill them and destroy their hutments.

“We are compelled to live in a fearsome environment”, reads the complaint letter.

Vartika Mani Tripathi, member of All India Lawyers Association for Justice (AILAJ), told Clarion India that these women had been facing harassment from some fringe elements. “Initially, police were reluctant to register the complaint. However, after a little deliberation with the SHO, the police accepted a written copy of the complaint”, she said.

Complaint letter by slum women

A month ago, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had demolished the hutments of Dhobi Ghat at the banks of river Yamuna. More than 1,000 individuals lost the roof over their heads. Many left the area for a new settlement but some stayed on.

People left behind say that they have no place to go. Most of the women are widows living with their underage daughters. The incident of threats has frightened them.

The entire Dhobi Ghat has been razed to ground and a board by DDA prohibiting excavation, dumping debris or construction of any kind stands at the spot.

Kareena, a resident of the Dhobi Ghat slum who stayed back, said, “Some locals claim to own the piece of land and want them to vacate the area as soon as possible. There have been several incidents of disturbances”.

Board erected by DDA

Though DDA claims to own a piece of land, the ‘plotwalas’ come and threaten the slum-dwellers to vacate the land.

“Police never respond to our calls. Once they know that we were calling from slums, they just hang up”, says Akbari, another resident.

Lawyer Tripathi claims that those threatening the slum-dwellers are land mafia. “There is a nexus between the police and land mafia”, she said.

However, SHO of Jamia Nagar police station denied the existence of the land mafia in Dhobi Ghat.

Life in the demolition-hit area has turned worse. The entry to the area from the Batla House side has been obstructed by cemented pillars. The other way has been dug out by machines.

Fears over the coronavirus pandemic have also made the lives of these people difficult. Women working in the nearby posh area lost their jobs and were forced to live on the alms.

Nazmeen (25), widowed mother of two, who often vomits blood because of some strange disease, used to work as a maid, lives in a hole-in-the wall room enough for just one single bed. The family for whom she worked fired her early in this year due to the fear of covid infection. Sabira, another slum-dweller also survives on begging.

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