Human rights experts of the United Nations on Friday called on the Indian government to stop the eviction of residents of Khori Gaon in Faridabad district of Haryana.

Demolition of over 10,000 homes in Khori Gaon encroaching on the Aravalli forest land started on Wednesday after the Supreme Court refused to stop the process. The court directed the Haryana government to evict slum dwellers from the land by July 19.

In a statement from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the experts said that the land was designated as a protected forest in 1992, despite there being no trees on it.

“We appeal to the Indian government to respect its own laws and its own goal of eliminating homelessness by 2022 and to spare homes of 1,00,000 people who mostly come from minority and marginalised communities,” the UN experts said. “It is particularly important that residents be kept safe during the pandemic.”

They pointed out that those living in Khori Gaon, including 20,000 children and 5,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women, have already been hit hard due to the coronavirus pandemic and the eviction would lead to more hardships for them.

The UN statement also said that human rights activists and residents of Khori Gaon who held protests against the eviction were beaten by the police and detained. There have also been arbitrary orders against the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly, the experts said.

They said the Supreme Court verdict on the matter puts Khori Gaon residents at the risk of internal displacement and homelessness. “The role of the Supreme Court is to uphold the laws and to interpret them in light of internationally-recognised human rights standards, not to undermine them,” the statement said.