New Delhi: On Thursday evening, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi visited Rangpur Pahadi slums in south Delhi, where hundreds of dwellings were demolished a couple of days ago, and sent out a stern warning to the Centre.
“They have won this time, but if they want to use the bulldozer again, let them drive it over my body,” Mr Gandhi told reporters after a quick visit to the slums. He accused the Centre of harassing poor people. “It’s the winter season and its getting so cold. The Government is sending these poor people out of their homes,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the area created a stampede like situation. Residents jostled with each other in a bid to attract Mr Gandhi’s attention and narrate their stories.
Reports suggest that about 900 dwellings, built on encroached forest land, were demolished by Delhi government officials on Tuesday morning. The demolition drive has left thousands of people homeless just when winter has set in.
“Sir, I requested the officials that we have had a baby only 10 days back. Yet, they didn’t spare our house,” said a man in mid 30s who didn’t wish to reveal his name.
Abdul, who is pitching in as a volunteer and helping out people with tents, blankets and medicines, informed us that before Rahul Gandhi’s visit, well-covered by waiting TV crews, volunteers of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) distributed free lunch as most people didn’t have any means to cook and went without food.
So with Delhi heading for another round of elections, are parties looking for some political gains?
“Whether it is AAP or now Rahul Gandhi, the fact is whoever has come to share our sorrows, we are grateful. None from the ruling party, the BJP, has come and paid a visit,” argues Abdul.
Residents here claimed that they have been residing in the area for over a decade and have government identification like Aadhar cards, electricity bills among others. “We have spent our lifetime savings and bought these places by paying two to three lakhs. Now it’s all gone,” says Vishwas Kumar, another resident whose house has been demolished.
With assembly elections in Delhi expected in February, parties are likely to keep the spotlight on the residents of Rangpur Pahadi.
In 1999, slum demolition drives by Jagmohan, Urban Development Minister in the Vajpayee government, cost the BJP dear and brought Sheila Dikshit to power in Delhi. The Congress would surely be hoping for a repeat.