The Bengaluru civic body, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, has confirmed that the recent demolition of more than 100 makeshift homes during an eviction drive in Kariyammana Agrahara, a locality in the suburb of Bellandur, was unauthorised, The News Minute reported on Tuesday.
The official who had given the order was identified as Assistant Executive Engineer of Mahadevapura Zone, Narayan Swamy. He was suspended as he did not have the authority to conduct such an action on private land. He had reportedly taken the action after several residents of the area complained to him.
“We have relieved him [Swamy] and sent him to his parent department – Public Works Department,” BBMP Commissioner Anil Kumar said. “We will also be writing to the secretary of PWD department to take action against him including that of suspension. The demolitions were unauthorised.”
“He [Narayan Swamy] had no authority to do so [order demolition] as it is not BBMP land,” Mahadevpura Zone Special Commissioner Randeep D said, according to The New Indian Express. “It is private land and taking the decision to bring down the sheds was not right. He cannot pass any order unless it is our [BBMP] land. We have decided to take strict action against him. But we are conducting a further inquiry on the issue after which action will be taken against him.”
The police had alleged that the tenants were “illegal Bangladeshi migrants”, and claimed the landowner had been sent an eviction notice. The eviction was carried out at a time when protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens are going on across India. The register is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented immigrants.
Activists, however, dismissed the police’s claim and said the people who had lost their homes were from various parts of the state and North India. They worked in the city as security guards, domestic workers and construction workers. The residents of Kariyammana Agrahara said they were not given prior notice and added that they had documents to prove their citizenship.
The demolition drive was carried out on Saturday and Sunday, about a week after a video first surfaced online claiming that “illegal Bangladeshi immigrants” lived in the area. On January 12, Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Aravind Limbavali had shared it on Twitter repeating the same claim. A Kannada TV channel had also claimed that “illegal Bangladeshis” were living in Bellandur.
‘If a Kannadiga is not able to live in Karnataka, where can he go?’
The demolitions have left hundreds of people without a home. “My wife and I spent the night in a lodge nearby,” Basveshwara, from Gangavati in Karnataka’s Koppal district told the newspaper. “We don’t have the money to pay for the lodge every day, so we returned to check if arrangements were made after they learnt that we are not Bangladeshi migrants. But our sheds are not rebuilt, so I returned to the lodge. I don’t know what to do next.”
Padma, a domestic worker, said she and her children spent the night on a footpath as they had no other place to go to. “We will see what arrangements to make for today. I cannot leave my children alone on the roads and go to work,” she said.
Thirty-eight-year-old Ayub Baig asked, “Do I have no right to live in this country?” Baig, who moved to Bengaluru from Kolar two years ago, sells chicken and lived in a hut in Bellandur with his wife and two children, according to The Times of India.
“Around 10 am on Sunday, I was at work when the earthmovers arrived and began demolishing the line of huts in which mine too stood,” he added. “Neither did they give us time to explain, nor did they bother to see our documents. All they said was that the people who live here are ‘illegal Bangladeshi immigrants’.” Baig added that this was not the first time they had received such a threat.
Karanna, a 36-year-old daily wage worker, said: “I asked officials if Koppal was in Bangladesh. If a Kannadiga is not able to live in Karnataka, where can he go?” He said he was given just 10 minutes to clear his house and remove all valuables before the demolition.