In a press conference on “Human Rights Implications of Forced Evictions and Displacement: An International Perspective” organised by the Housing and Land Rights Network in Delhi, speakers pointed out the rampant violations of human rights being carried out across the country in the name of development.
Forced evictions and the manner in which they are carried out violate India’s national and international legal obligations, while further marginalising the most vulnerable sections of society. Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights said, “When any government deliberately allows the demolition of thousands of homes of vulnerable women, men and children without information, consultation, exploring alternatives and providing adequate resettlement prior to displacement – then this government is indulging in gross violations of human rights of the very people that it is supposed to protect.”
While the broader dimensions of forced evictions were highlighted, speakers gave special emphasis to the failed rehabilitation in the Narmada Valley and the continued illegal construction of the dam that not only violates the Supreme Court orders but also clearly violates the human rights of thousands of families who have been displaced and will face submergence in the coming monsoon. They also condemned the massive slum demolition drives being carried out in Mumbai and Delhi as part of “city beautification” schemes and large-scale infrastructure development projects that render people homeless. They stated that the current trend of treating the poor as dispensable cannot be allowed to continue.
Prof. Upendra Baxi, Professor of Law in Development at the University of Warwick (U.K.), and former Vice Chancellor of Delhi University likened the current situation in the country to that of the 1975-76 Emergency. “The cruel and arbitrary Emergency demolitions and evictions occurred as acts of executive/ administrative power; the more recent ones are conducted under high judicial auspices. He further raised the important “issue of trade-off between executive and judicial largess, while calling for “human rights accountability, especially for the classes of judicial actors.”