Homes belonging to Dalit families were demolished in Madhya Pradesh’s Sagar district on Wednesday, after which former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh staged a protest at the site, reported The Indian Express.
District officials have alleged that the homes were built on forest land under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and notices were sent to the residents a year ago.
The residents, however, have claimed they were not served notices and had been living in the area since the last 50 years, reported The Quint. They have also alleged that they could not remove their belongings before the homes were bulldozed.
The demolition happened after new construction activity started at the site, according to The Indian Express. A forest ranger has been suspended.
Hours after the demolition, Singh visited the site and asked why the Bharatiya Janata Party government “kept sleeping” when the houses were being built on forest land.
“Are the houses of BJP leaders not built on government land?” the Congress leader asked. “Why didn’t the bulldozer run over them? This is gross injustice to the poor SC [Scheduled Caste] and we will not tolerate it.”
He demanded compensation for the aggrieved families. While Singh claimed that 10 houses were demolished, District Collector Deepak Arya told The Indian Express that seven homes had been bulldozed.
The collector said that an investigation would be conducted on why the houses were geotagged under the PM Awas Yojana.
On being asked why the ranger has been suspended if the land was encroached, Arya said that the official did not follow the procedure.
“In the meeting of the task force committee, it was decided to remove the houses under construction and the vacant houses first,” he said. “The rest of the people were to be displaced. But the Ranger made haste.”
Arya said that the “district administration would be rehabilitating six families by giving them” a land deed.
Singh demanded that the ranger be booked under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief described the demolition as “destructive malicious bulldozer politics” by the BJP government.