Hyderabad: “A community hall is no place to stay,” remarks Jangamma, a woman who resided in a hut in Lokayukta colony, Saidabad. Today she is with no home.
She stands beside her almairah (cupboard) pointing to the few belongings she has left. Along with her neighbours, Jagamma was rendered homeless and unsure of what to do, when all of them were evicted from the land they were living on for decades.
She alleges that she and her neighbours were evicted from their huts at 3 in the morning on January 7. There is little ration to rely on and the few bags of rice, oil and potatoes will soon be exhausted. Jangamma then points to a baby also residing in the hall. No more than 10 months old, the child’s face has been reddened by mosquito bite marks.
Jangamma was among 80 other distressed people whose huts were demolished by the city police. The residents, all chiefly Scheduled Tribes (Lamabadi community), alleged that around 100 police officials (female police, constables among them) along with labourers were present as the eviction was carried out at 3 in the morning. The evictees claim that there was no notice, no warning of any kind and the eviction came upon them out of nowhere.
Several locals further said that they were illegally detained in a local park in the colony and men and women were segregated. While the detention was underway, the demolition of the huts is alleged to have taken place early in the morning.
While the evictees deny large-scale violence on part of the police, they remarked that a few of them were pushed in the rush by the cops. Further, they said that the women were taken to the Osmania University police station while the men were detained at Amberpet police station and were only let off at 9 in the night.
Further, Jangamma and other residents alleged that there was a nexus between the local Muslims residing in the area and the police officials and the locals were now guarding the land on which they resided.
Police deny claims of late-night eviction
Saidabad police station’s station house officer (SHO) K Subba Rami Reddy however refuted the claims made by the evictees. “The eviction was not carried out at 3 in the morning as there was no reason to do so. We followed the procedure and conducted the eviction at 6:30 in the morning. The locals were in violation of the land grabbing act and a court order. When they disobeyed the notice of the court, the owners appealed to revenue officials who sought our help,” he said.
However, to add to the narrative, a copy of a letter dated 7 January 2023, written by Malakpet All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MLA Ahmed Bin Abdullah Balala was accessed by Siasat.com. The letter remarks that the court had ordered the 27 families to be shifted to the Nandavanam colony but that never happened.
They do not want us living in the area, say evictees:
“I was still in my nightie when the cops arrived at 3 in the morning. I was menstruation and when we were detained in the park, my clothes were soaked with blood. It was humiliating,” Neela, one of the evictees, told me.
“They don’t want people like us staying there,” remarked Srinu, another evictee who works as an auto-driver. “When we went back to gather our leftover belongings, we were shooed away by some men. The eviction itself was concerning as we had never seen so many cops.”
Jyothi, Jangamma’s neighbour, said that her deceased mother’s insurance and other documents now went missing after the eviction. “The documents were the basis on which I could have gotten a job with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). What am I to do now?” she asked.
The labourers who were present at the eviction by the police allegedly shifted the residents’ belongings to A-one community hall in SBI colony, Saidabad, a half-a-kilometre from their residence in Lokaykta colony.
“We have voted from here, we have all the papers to prove that we lived here,” said Neela. However, SHO Reddy added, “I do not doubt that they lived there. It is just that they do not own the land.”
Irrespective of the above details, the 27 families are now living in a community park without basic amenities. “There is just one toilet here for men and women. Everyone is sitting in a corner and bathing in the open,” said Hamsha. “We are living off of whatever ration is donated to us. Even our cupboards are out in the open and now we have nowhere to go.”
“Adavi lo unte bhoomi ni gunjukuntaru, City ki osthe, guduselu gunjukuntaru. Maa Girijanulaku hakulu leva andi? (If we Girijans live in forests, our land is grabbed. If we come to the city, our huts are grabbed. Do we not have rights?)” asks an angry Jyothi.
Srinu claims that the residents have written to the Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO), Joint Collector and to the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) but aside from assurances have received no help. Despite repeated attempts, Saidabad’s Mandal Revenue Officer was unavailable for comment.