May 6, 2023: Jantar Mantar in Delhi is one of the most hallowed places to register a protest in India. But there are two worlds that exist side by side at Jantar Mantar – two contrasting worlds that don’t know each other.
In one of those two worlds, the so-called free press passionately covers protests – because those protests come with a tasteful and tangy political flavour. The other world, too, holds protests. But the so-called free press doesn’t cover the other-world protests – because they don’t come with sensational political angles. Sadly, they are only about human rights!
While Jantar Mantar is currently in the news all day for the wrestlers’ protest over sexual harassment charges, very few people in the national capital are aware that a different demonstration seeking justice was held at the same venue on May 3, 2023.
Braving a day-long downpour, dozens of people from Tughlaqabad village in southern Delhi’s Tughlaqabad Fort area converged at Jantar Mantar to seek immediate rehabilitation after recently getting evicted from their homes.
On April 24, 2023, the Delhi High Court had issued an order, following an earlier Supreme Court ruling, calling upon a section of the residents to vacate their homes in the disputed area. In the days that followed, the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) and the DDA (Delhi Development Authority), along with the authorities’ support, took down about 2,000 houses in the densely populated Tughlaqabad village.
As a result of the action, more than 10,000 people have become homeless and are looking for alternative places to stay. Ever since the demolition was over, steps have yet to be taken to kick-start the rehabilitation and resettlement process for the stranded residents.
Social activist Nirmal Gorana Agni, who pilots the Delhi-based Mazdoor Awas Sangharsh Samiti and supports people from the low-income group who face rights violations, said, “The Supreme Court did not refuse to give rehabilitation to the people. Therefore, the ASI and the DDA should be allotted land by the concerned authorities for immediate rehabilitation.”
Thousands of residents of Tughlaqabad village have been on tenterhooks for the past several years amid growing calls from historians and environmentalists to cut down on the congested dwellings surrounding the fort area.
Most of the residents living in the area belong to the low wage-earning class, running their kitchens by working as daily labourers, construction workers, domestic help, cleaners, security guards, etc.
The question is, when the evicted people of Tughlaqabad protested in the heart of Delhi to seek immediate rehabilitation, India’s so-called free press didn’t turn up to cover their cause. Yet, at the same location, the popular press was engrossed covering the wrestlers’ protest day in and day out – just because the rightful cause of the female wrestlers has spiralled into a sensational political drama.
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