The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) told the Karnataka High Court on Thursday that it did not carry out the demolitions in the migrant settlements in Bellandur over fears that illegal Bangladeshi immigrants were staying there.
The counsel appearing for the BBMP distanced itself from the demolitions. This despite the fact that Assistant Executive Engineer of the BBMPâ€™s Marathahalli subdivision had written to Marathahalli police station seeking police protection to carry out the evictions in the migrant settlements in Bellandur. In the letter, the engineer had said that "Bangladeshi nationals have built illegal sheds and the residents here have converted this into a slum area".
Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka was hearing a petition filed by the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) challenging the demolition of migrant settlements in Bellandur and Whitefield in the city on January 18 and 19. The Chief Justice questioned, "Who carried out the demolitions?," after neither the BBMP nor the Bengaluru Police came forward to take responsibility.
"The BBMP's engineer (Assistant Executive Engineer, Mahadevapura Zone) had written to the police but the BBMP did not carry out demolition of sheds," the BBMP counsel told the High Court.
On January 18 and 19, sheds in migrant settlements in Devarabeesanahalli and Kariyammana Agrahara in Bellandur were demolished by an excavator. Police officials from Marathahalli police station were present during the demolitions.
However, it turned out that many residents in the migrant settlement were from states like Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and even Karnataka. When TNM visited the spot, the residents held up their identification cards to prove their citizenship. Residents of the settlements are
BBMP Commissioner BH Anil Kumar later stated that the demolitions were unauthorised and blamed the engineer for 'going rogue' and demolishing sheds without permission from higher officials.
"Local residents came to the office of the AEE twice to complain that there are a large number of illegal sheds in the area and it was causing a nuisance, especially in the night time," the BBMP's counsel told the High Court.
The complaints made by these residents eventually led to the demolition of migrant settlements behind Mantri Espana apartment. The BBMP has sent Narayan Swamy back to his parent department - Public Works Department - and recommended that he should be suspended.
Police officials from Marathahalli police station were present at the site of the demolition until it was called off on January 19. However, a police notice sent to a landowner on January 11 stated that the sheds constructed behind Mantri Espana apartment in Bellandur are illegal and that Bangladeshi immigrants were illegally settled there.
Residents in a migrant settlement in Kundalahalli near Marathahalli were also evicted on the day demolitions were carried out in Bellandur.
Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka asked the BBMP to file its statement of objections by Saturday. The High Court also asked the state government to clarify its stance on the demolitions. The counsel appearing for the state government said that an enquiry is underway. The case will be heard again on Monday.
Since the demolition, Bengaluru police have arrested three people living in a migrant settlement near Whitefield stating that they are illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.