A group of residents of Uttarakhand’s Haldwani district have filed a petition in the Supreme Court against demolitions of allegedly unauthorised structures slated for January 8, Live Law reported.

The court is likely to hear the case on Thursday.

On December 20, the Uttarakhand High Court directed state authorities to remove allegedly unauthorised structures from “railway land” in the Haldwani district’s Banbhoolpura area after a week’s notice to the families. The residents, however, claim that the land does not belong to the Indian Railways.

The petitioners before the Supreme Court said that over 20,000 persons live in more than 4,000 homes that have been directed to be demolished. They contended that the High Court passed the order even though proceedings pertaining to the legal ownership of the residents were pending before the district magistrate, according to Live Law.

The petitioners said that they have been paying house tax for years and have Aadhaar cards mentioning the locality as the address. They said that there are five government schools, one hospital and two overhead water tanks in the locality. According to the petitioners, the families have been living there for generations, some of them since before independence.

The residents of Banbhoolpura have been holding intermittent protests in the area in the presence of police personnel since December 23. On Tuesday, a group of women held a gathering and organised special prayers near the Badi Masjid in the Indra Nagar locality.

One of the protestors, 15-year-old Mantasha Shafiq, told Scroll.in that she and her cousins will fight to save their homes and school that are among the structures which have been ordered to be demolished.

“Beti Bachao, Beti Padho is nothing more than a slogan,” she said, referring to the campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address the gender gap in education and the sex ratio imbalance. Another protestor, Abrar Hussain, said that the residents have documents to prove that they have been living in the area legally.

Some demonstrators expressed anger at sections of the media for using pejorative terms like “land jihad” while covering the protests. “We are fighting for our rights, we are not doing anything illegal,” said Nazreen Bano, a protestor.

Residents said that they will intensify their agitation if they do not get any relief from the Supreme Court.

Sumit Hriyadesh, Congress MLA from Haldwani, alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government had readily agreed to give away this huge piece of land to Railways.

“We personally went to the high court to oppose the removal of encroachments from 78 acres of land which the railway calls its own,” he added. “We went even to the Supreme Court where our senior leader Salman Khurshid is fighting the case but the government which built schools and hospitals on the land did not show any care for its citizens.”

Meanwhile, Vivek Gupta, additional railway manager, Izzat Nagar, said that the legal dispute began in 2013 with a petition against illegal sand mining in the Gaula river alongside the Haldwani railway station, The Indian Express reported.

“With the writ petition came the question of who are the people who are involved in illegal mining and why is it happening, and it was found that people living along the railway line were indulging in such practices,” Gupta alleged. “The Railways was then made a party and the High Court directed us to get the land cleared.”

The official said that the residents approached the Supreme Court, which told the High Court to take into consideration the stand of the those living in the area as well. “Last month, after hearing all the parties, the High Court once again found that the land belongs to the Railways and should be cleared after a week’s notice,” he said. “We now have to follow the order.”