Fear gripped the residents of Bengaluru’s Munekolala slum located near Marathahalli on Thursday morning. The residents of the settlement stood helplessly as earthmovers demolished their hutments. The residents of the settlement located near Vagdevi School have been fearful of eviction ever since Varthur Police Inspector Obala Reddy allegedly warned them of eviction last week.
However, police say that the demolition did not take place on any order from either the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) or the city police and that it occurred due to a private land dispute. Around 20 hutments were demolished before the police intervened and stopped the process.
Why residents fear eviction
“There was one earthmover and a man who called himself the manager of the landowner’s affairs. He said that he had been instructed to raze the structure by the landowner. Since the Varthur Police Inspector had threatened to demolish the settlement last week, and had accused the residents of being illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, we thought that we were being evicted just like the settlement in Whitefield last month,” said 65-year-old Lakshmi Shutar, a daily wage worker from Odisha, who lives in the settlement.
The residents immediately called activist Khaleem of Swaraj India Party and informed him about the demolition. “I called the police at around 10 am and informed them that someone was demolishing the hutments. Initially, the residents told us that it was the police who were demolishing the hutments. Hence, we were concerned as it is against the recent High Court order,” Khaleem said.
Earlier in January, around 300 hutments at a settlement in Whitefield were demolished after a BBMP Assistant Engineer issued an order for the eviction of the residents there, claiming that they were Bangladeshi nationals. The Karnataka High Court had taken the BBMP to task and had, on February 10, issued an order that those who were evicted must be resettled.
On February 5, residents of the Munekolala settlement had said that the Varthur Police Inspector had threatened to evict all settlements, and had allegedly called them illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. When activists approached the police, they had assured them that no demolition would take place.
The land dispute
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) of Whitefield subdivision, MN Anucheth, tasked the Marathahalli Police to stop the demolition immediately. The Marathahalli Police, who went to the spot, stopped the earthmover from demolishing more houses.
“There is a half-acre plot opposite Vagdevi School where the settlement is located. The land belongs to a woman named Jayamma, who holds the required documents to prove ownership of the agricultural land. However, a local builder named Narayana Reddy has been fighting for the plot and he hired people and the earthmover to raze the settlements,” DCP Anucheth said.
Marathahalli Police said that Sandeep, the manager who was on site, was arrested. Police say that Narayana Reddy wanted to usurp Jayamma’s property and that in order to do so, he planned to evict the settlement dwellers and then take over the property.
“We arrested Sandeep, seized the earthmover and questioned him. He said he was only carrying out orders and did not know what was happening. We are tracking down Narayana Reddy,” the police added.
An FIR has been registered at the Marathahalli Police Station against Narayana Reddy and Sandeep under Sections 427 (mischief causing damage to property), 441 (trespassing) and 425 (wrongful loss to individual or individuals’ property) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC.