Hundreds of shanty-dwellers fought a pitched battle with the police, pelting stones and brickbats, to resist a demolition drive by the Haryana Urban Development Authority to clear government land in Sector 5 of the Mansa Devi Complex on Sunday.
The incident left several policemen injured, though none seriously, and a JCB machine damaged, following which the police used lathicharge and water cannons to disperse the mob. Many of them were detained. Later, in the afternoon, the protesters staged a dharna on the nearby railway tracks, detaining a train for around 15 minutes. A tenement was also set on fire, allegedly by a protester.
After the protest, HUDA suspended the demolition and gave the jhuggi-dwellers two days to clear their belongings. The protesters got support from local Congress and BJP workers who arrived on the scene. Vishal Seth, district in-charge of the BJP, said, “Encroachments should be cleared, but not this way. Residents of these dwellings should have been given a prior notice and rehabilitated.’’
HUDA officials and staff went to the spot in the morning to demolish around 250 jhuggis and tenements on around three acres of government land as part of the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the town. About 100 policemen, including 30 women constables, were deployed with two water cannons. Three JCB machines were also there. Two police ACPs, the duty magistrate and the HUDA Estate Officer were present.
After around 40 jhuggis were demolished, about 200 people gathered and started protesting and throwing bricks and stones from the demolished structures at the JCB machine and the policemen. Four policemen suffered injuries, mostly on the face, and were taken to the General Hospital in Sector 6. A JCB machine was damaged, and a tenement was set on fire by a protester.
Police back-up was called, and the dwellers held back with lathicharge and water cannons. Several of them were detained by the police, and the situation was brought under control.
The encroachers alleged that they were given no prior notice of the demolition. But HUDA EO Gurmeet Singh said, “We have been carrying out demolitions for the past one week, and everyone is fully aware of the ongoing drive.”
Nevertheless, HUDA suspended the demolition and gave the dwellers two days to clear their belongings from the land.
In the afternoon, the encroachers gathered on the railway tracks in the MDC and staged a dharna, stopping the Kalka-Nizamuddin passenger train. By the time the police arrived, they had called off the dharna. Police officials later said that they were trying to identify the people who encouraged the agitation and stone-pelting.