Officials, however, allege that miscreants encroached upon government land and were ‘selling’ off their plots.

Ground report Authorities raze houses in Hyderabad slum 60 families homelessAll images: Nitin B
news Housing Wednesday, August 01, 2018 - 17:10

Barely a few kilometres from Hyderabad's Wipro Circle, the hub of major tech companies in the city, Shantamma holds an infant in her hands and stands amid rubble, with tears in her eyes. 

"We had just built a new house after saving up for years. We built it ourselves, with our own hands and now it is all gone. This is exactly where my house was," she sobs, as she points to some scattered clothes and a broken door on the ground.

"My husband stood up to the police when the authorities came to demolish our house and they swiftly bundled him in a vehicle and took him away. He has been sent to judicial remand and will come back only after another 12 days," she adds. 

Shantamma's family is one out of roughly 60 families, who live in a slum in Keshava Nagar near Hyderabad's IT Corridor. 

Even as high-rise buildings gleam in the background, the slum shows signs of absolute ruin, as rubble has covered almost every inch of the area as broken doors and belongings can be seen protruding out of the bricks. 

Residents allege that it all began at around 3 am on Tuesday morning, when police officials and authorities from the Revenue Department swooped down on their houses, as part of a crackdown on encroachers.

"They drove us out with fear and said that we have 10 minutes to take our belongings and move. They didn't even listen to us talk. Whoever tried to speak or argue were dragged away and detained. Many of us have small children in our homes but they did not show any consideration," one woman alleges.

Even as she says this, a tattered school book is found amid the rubble by one of the children in the slum, who clutches it to his chest and runs away.

Residents in this slum are mostly involved in construction work and are predominantly daily wage labourers. Some of them also drive autos for a living. 

They also say that they have been here for at least three generations and are irked at being kicked out without being served notices. Unable to go to work in fear that their remaining belongings will also be stolen, their source of income has also been cut off.

"They cut off our electricity and water for two days as well but they have restored it now after we refused to leave. They have detained our local leaders as well and thrashed many of us, including the women," one youngster alleges. 

The police continue to man the spot and have set up a tent at one of the entrances to ensure that no untoward incident takes place.   

However, authorities have denied the allegations and said that the accusations were far from the truth. 

‘Miscreants encroached govt land’

Speaking to TNM, Serilingampally MLA Arekapudi Gandhi states, "There are 11 acres of land belonging to the central government under the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) Housing Society. In that, the Centre has constructed buildings in one part of the land. The rest of it also belongs to them. However, some miscreants encroached the land and then 'sold' off the plots to others."

"Over the last five months, I have repeatedly visited the area with the local corporator. We even went for an inspection with the Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO) and representatives of the Housing Society once, when we saw that two acres in one corner had been completely encroached. However, since they were underprivileged people, we extended the benefit of a 2BHK houses at the spot, on behalf of the state government," Gandhi added.

The legislator said that the state then took possession of the land and even called for tenders.

"We also finalised the allotment of houses, but in the last two months, they built another 16 houses. When we questioned them, pointing out that houses would soon be allotted to them, they said that they were poor people and had no other choice. I then spoke to the Collector and MRO and included these 16 families into the scheme as well," Gandhi said.

The MLA alleged that in another 20 days, the locals constructed another 20 tin sheds, which was causing great distress to the state government. 

"They were not standing on their word and many of them were even 'selling' off their land on oral guarantees, without any paperwork for several lakh rupees. How can they sell government land? Due to this, we had to take strict action and dismantle the houses that they built," Gandhi said. 

"We not only served notices, we even held counselling sessions. All those who applied for the 2BHK scheme will get a house. We will also accommodate the 16 people who had encroached the land after we held the first inspection," he added. 

Meanwhile, the police claimed that the locals were cooperative at first but began turning violent after they were allegedly instigated. 

"Officials from the Revenue Department requested for police protection and so we visited the spot. The revenue officials got to work and demolished the houses. People were calm but there was one group of people who tried to disturb the peace and instigated people to protest. All of a sudden, the people turned on us and began attacking us," Gachibowli Police Inspector M Gangadhar told TNM.

The police officer claimed that the locals attacked them with sticks and stones and even chilli powder. 

"Some people including a few officers were injured in the melee. We have registered a case under IPC Sections 147 (Rioting), 148 (Rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 332 (Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty) and unlawful assembly among other sections. 7 people were sent to judicial remand," the police officer adds.

When asked about the police's claims, locals accepted the charge. 

"Tell me one thing though, if someone were to barge into your house in the middle of the night and start breaking it down, and begin detaining you when you protested, wouldn't you be angry enough to throw stones? That's what we did," one youngster, who did not want to be identified, says.