It has been two days since an unauthorised demolition drive by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in the migrant settlements in Kariyammana Agrahara and Devarabeesanahalli in Bengaluru left hundreds of people homeless.
"Many people staying in this settlement have left because their huts were demolished. There are others who have left because they fear that the demolitions will continue and affect them in the future. The people who have left are camped in roadside sheds in Bellandur and Marathahalli or are in rented rooms. Some others have left the place and moved away from this area," Mohammed Ahad-ul, a 20-year-old resident of the settlement told TNM.
Though BBMP Commissioner has agreed that the demolition was illegal, there is much pressure on the agency from various sides. A BJP MLA targeted the settlement calling the people living there 'Bangladeshis', though it has been proved that almost all residents were from different states of India. Many apartment dwellers nearby want the settlement removed as they allege it is on the Bellandur lake bed.
Even as the future of the residents of the settlement are up in the air, landowners are divided over whether they will evict them.
A landowner of one of these plots in Kariyammana Agrahara told TNM that he plans to vacate residents staying in sheds in his expanse of quarter-acre of land. "I will vacate the people staying on my land now that this issue has come to light. I don't want them there anymore because if the officials or police have an issue, I will be the one affected by it," says a landowner who owns around a quarter acre land in Kariyammana Agrahara.
On the quarter-acre stretch of land owned by the landowner, residents from states like Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal were found to be staying.
The land owner, who bought the land a year ago, says that he is paid Rs 25,000 as rent by a 'supervisor' every month. The 'supervisor' is an intermediary who collects the rent from the tenants and pays a fixed amount to the landowner. Rent is collected from residents staying in the sheds and the amount ranges from Rs 500 to Rs 2000 per month.
Meanwhile, another landowner, Gopinath, says that he will work out an agreement with the residents staying in sheds on his stretch of land. Gopinath owns 14 gunta area of land in Devarabeesanahalli and residents on this stretch are mostly from northern Karnataka. "I have told the people staying on this land that we will work out an agreement and we will tell police that everyone here is from Karnataka," says Gopinath. The settlement in Devarabeesanahalli is located 1 km away from Kariyammana Agrahara close to Sakra World Hospital.
He adds that he is paid Rs 700 per shed every month. In each of the sheds, multiple people reside.
Both landowners told TNM that they were unaware of electrical and water supply connections arranged in the sheds by residents living there. "I don't know how they have arranged water and electricity supply for the sheds," says a landowner.
BBMP officials have also raised the issue of how electrical connections were set up in these migrant settlements. "Our electricity lines and water supply was cut off last week. We have been arranging water through tankers for the settlement. Now, we are unsure if we will be allowed to live here," says Mohammed Ahad-ul, a resident in the settlement. Activists say that residents in the settlements were not provided basic amenities by the BBMP.
A petition was filed in the Karnataka High Court on Monday by People's Union for Civil Liberties against the eviction-demolition drive of Indian citizens. "After studying the documents of those residing in the settlement it was found that none of the residents were Bangaladeshis, but they were largely from North Karnataka, and several of them are also from Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, and Bihar," Vinay Sreenivasa, an advocate with Alternative Law Forum (ALF) in Bengaluru.
In a police notice to the landowners, dated January 11, it said that illegal sheds have been constructed in the area behind Mantri Espana apartment survey number 35/2 without any permission from the government. ‚ÄúIn these sheds, Bangladeshi nationals are sheltered outside the scope of the law, without providing any documents. By constructing sheds and providing illegal electricity, it is illegal to stay outside the scope of the law.‚ÄĚ