On January 3, now-shut Amnesty India came out in support of Muslim encroachers of Haldwani in Uttarakhand who are protesting against the court orders to clear the encroachment. In a tweet thread, Amnesty India condemned the proposal of clearing the encroachment from the land owned by Indian Railways.
Amnesty India said, “We condemn the proposal of the central government’s railway authorities to forcibly evict over 4000 families living on railway-owned land in Banbhulpura area of Haldwani town in Uttarakhand following the order of the Uttarakhand High Court.”
The organisation further claimed that the central government was not providing any support to these encroachers for rehabilitation. It said, “Instead of prioritising access to a basic level of housing for everyone, the central government plans to render some of the most socially and economically disadvantaged sections of society homeless during one of the coldest winters in northern India.”
Blaming Indian Railways for attempting to get its land back and use it for development, Amnesty India said, “The railway authorities aim to develop their projects at the cost of the people living in the area without giving them adequate notice or compensation to find an alternative home.” While blaming the government and railways, the organisation cunningly missed mentioning that these people were encroachers on government land and had no right to the land. Being encroachers, they also have no right to any compensation for getting evicted.
Citing the International human rights standards, it added that “regardless of the reasons for the eviction, it should be carried out in strict compliance with the relevant provisions of international human rights law”. Furthermore, it said, “According to international human rights standards, the authorities must ensure that no one is left homeless because of an eviction, including those without ownership documents. They must offer adequate compensation to all those affected without discrimination.”
The Haldwani encroachment clearance orders and protests against it
Thousands of Muslim residents in Haldwani staged a protest on December 28 against the clearance of illegal encroachments on railway land in accordance with a High Court ruling. The demonstrators claimed that removing the illegal encroachments would make them homeless.
The protesters also claimed that the clearance of encroachments would affect a large number of women, children, and elderly persons residing in the area.
The High Court ordered the eviction of unauthorized residents
The Uttarakhand High Court had recently ordered the authorities to evict forthwith the unauthorized occupants to vacate the premises from the railway land adjoining Haldwani Railway Station, commonly called Gaffur Basti. Accordingly, the action was initiated on December 29 after providing residents with a one-week prior notice.
Further, in accordance with the court ruling, residents of the Banbhoolpura area in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani who live on encroached railway land were also asked to surrender their licensed weapons and guns with the administration before the process of removing encroachments began.
The issue over railway land encroachment in the Haldwani area dates back to 2007 when railway officials conducted eviction operations for land segmentation and clearance of encroachment. It did, however, result in fights and arson, as well as demonstrations and stone-pelting.
On July 27, 2021, the North Eastern Railways delivered over 1,000 eviction notices to Banbhoolpura residents, instructing them to vacate their homes within 15 days. In April, over 500 people received similar notices, while 1,581 people received identical notices in January. The tenants then contended that the continuous distribution of eviction notices was done only to annoy them while the case was still in court.
The Uttarakhand High Court had previously asked the North Eastern Railway administration to remove encroachments on railway land in an order dated November 9, 2016. In the aftermath of the ruling, about 4,365 notifications were issued that year. After dismissing the state’s review plea, the court ordered the expulsion of informal settlers within four weeks in January 2017. The Supreme Court, however, postponed the ruling for three months, citing the fact that the High Court had not heard the petitioners before issuing the eviction order.
A batch of petitions has been filed at the Supreme Court challenging the High Court order of eviction, and it is likely to be heard tomorrow. The matter was mentioned before a bench headed by CJI DY Chandrachud by advocate Prashant Bhushan.
Families facing eviction seeking ownership rights and resettlement of residents
Families facing eviction have been arguing that the land belongs to the Haldwani Municipal Corporation (HMC) as opposed to the Railways. Some claim long-standing occupancy, stating that they have lived in the region since independence and so the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act of 1971 does not apply to them. Others allege that the property was given to them by the state, while others claim that they bought it at a public auction. However, the counsel representing those facing eviction had alleged in the past that there is a land ownership issue between the Railways and the state, in addition to the demarcation of the land not being complete.
Residents in the Gaffer Basti region have been seeking ownership rights, regularization, the installation of sewage lines, hospitals, and the resettlement of people. They claimed that because the HMC owns 75% of the property, the delineation should be done jointly by the corporation and the railways. They further argued in February this year, that the Railways should only evict those who live on its territory.
The dubious history of Amnesty and it’s Indian chapter
A charge sheet was filed by ED on July 9, 2022, against Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd (AIIPL), Indians for Amnesty International Trust (IAIT), and former AIIPL CEOs G Ananthapadmanabhan and Aakar Patel, accusing them of money laundering. The ED in its prosecution complaint had alleged that the parent organization had routed more than Rs 51 crore to Amnesty India in violation of FCRA to ‘fund anti-national activities in the guise of export of services’.
On several occasions, Amnesty International and its Indian chapter have been found to be involved in anti-India activities. In a report published in OpIndia in 2019, the connections between Amnesty International India, the British government, and radical Islamists were exposed. The organisation has a history of meddling with the internal affairs of India. It has constantly been trying to falsely project India as a violator of human rights and the ‘oppressor’ of Muslims.
Amnesty India and its former head Aakar Patel kept peddling blatant lies and fake news to portray India negatively. It also campaigned for the arrested Urban Naxals in the Bhima Koregaon violence case. Therefore, its actions are clearly tantamount to foreign interference in the domestic issues of India, and it is only appropriate that strict action is taken against it.