The Karnataka High Court directed the state government to rehabilitate and provide relief measures for residents of migrant settlements in Bellandur and Whitefield in Bengaluru which were demolished over fears that Bangladeshi immigrants were staying there.
The demolitions were carried out on January 18 and 19 after police officials at the Marathahalli police station issued notices to the landowners to evict residents living in tin and tarpaulin sheds. Police then oversaw the demolition of sheds in Kariyammana Agrahara, Devarabeesanahalli and Kundanahalli despite appeals from the residents.
"As it all began due to the notice issued by the police inspector, it is the state government which takes responsibility to rehabilitate the persons who lost their homes in the demolition. We direct the state government to come up with a scheme for rehabilitating the residents and for grant of interim relief," Chief Justice Abhay Oka stated.
The state government was given two weeks to provide interim relief to residents and a period of one month to come up with a scheme to rehabilitate residents.
The court was hearing the plea filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties which challenged the demolition. When the demolitions were carried out, another letter written by Narayan Swamy, the Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) of the BBMP's Mahadevapura zone sought permission from the Marathahalli police to carry out demolitions. But the counsel appearing for BBMP in the high court distanced the civic body from the demolitions stating that even though a letter was sent by the AEE, the demolitions were not carried out by them.
But CJ Oka stated that the demolitions were a result of the actions of Marathahalli police officials, who were present along with an excavator when the demolitions were carried out. "The counsels appearing for the state government and BBMP have both denied that they initiated any due process to evict residents in the settlements," CJ Oka said.
Police officials present during demolition of migrant settlement near Mantri Espana Apartment, Bellandur
The High Court also rejected the statements made by two landowners that the residents left the settlement after they were politely requested to do so.
In the week prior to the demolitions, a video was shared widely on social media claiming that illegal Bangladeshi immigrants were sheltered in the migrant settlements in Bellandur. The video was also shared by the BJP's Mahadevapura MLA Arvind Limbavali. A news report by Suvarna News had also claimed the presence of Bangladeshi immigrants staying in Bellandur.
This was despite the fact that most residents of the settlement were from different parts of India including Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and even north Karnataka. The residents in the settlement work as housekeepers, cooks and cleaners in high-rise apartments nearby on daily wages.
The residents who saw their homes demolished in January are now living in sheds nearby. "We will be collecting information on the list of residents whose homes were demolished last month. We will be providing this list to the state government," Maitreyi Krishnan, the petitioner told TNM.