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G20 Summit | From Slums to Shadows: Delhi's Displaced Ahead of G20 Summit

Amidst G20 summit, Delhi's marginalised speak out. The tales of displacement and despair beneath the global spotlight.

By Saksham Agrawal
New Update

India's national capital, Delhi, is decked up for the G20 summit. Leaders from the G20 economies have arrived for the grand event. This summit is set to highlight India's position as a representative of the Global South and the advocate for many developing nations. 

The government of India went to great lengths to make arrangements for this event, including the demolition of several slums that even remotely came in the way of this mega event. Tens of thousands of people in many slums in Delhi have been rendered homeless ahead of the summit. Our team decided to visit one such demolition site: Subhash Camp in Badarpur.

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Amidst the debris and remnants of what was once a community, Azhar Khan, a labourer, recounted the traumatic eviction his family faced, saying, "My house number was A-332, Subhash Camp. They didn't conduct any survey. They just gave a notice and, the next day, demolished the house. We didn't even have the chance to remove our belongings."

With the dust barely settled, Khan and his family of six now find themselves without a roof over their heads. "We're now just lying on the divider. How can a daily labourer afford to rent a house? My children can't go to school anymore. Their missed education is the biggest loss," Khan lamented.

While rumours circulated that some evicted residents were shown alternative housing options, Khan dismissed them. "No flat or place was shown to us by any officials. Some people from an NGO came, saying the flats are for people like us," he recalled. "It was the NGO representatives who gave us hope. But they only showed us dreams, to shatter them later."

Demolition drive at Subhash Camp, Badarpur ahead of the G20 summit | Photo courtesy: The Probe

G20 Summit | From Azhar to Parvati: The Human Cost of Beautification

Parvati Devi, with tears glistening in her eyes, showcases the rubble that was once her home in Subhash Camp. Yet another poignant tale of loss and hardship from the devastation caused by the city's preparations for the G20 summit emerges.

A long-term resident, Parvati, recalls the unsettling days leading up to the destruction. "The DDA did give a short notice," she recounts, "Initially, they promised to only clear land from the sewer side. But when they started, they cleared out the entire area."

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When asked about post-eviction arrangements by the government, Parvati paints a grim picture. "They've provided nothing. Our belongings lie scattered on the streets, buried in the debris. In this blistering heat, what do they expect us to do? My boy was injured just a few days ago on this very road.

The situation turned grimmer when the topic shifted to confrontations with the police. "They've assaulted us. Policemen have beaten up women and taken them away in vehicles," Parvati claims, her voice quivering with a mix of anger and fear. 

G20 Summit | Demolition and Diplomacy

Mukesh sits amidst the debris of his demolished house and has a meal | Photo courtesy: The Probe

G20 Summit | Residents Recount Heartbreak Amid Debris

Mukesh, a labourer whose life has been upturned by the demolition, paints a dire picture of the aftermath of the preparations for the G20 summit. "Look around," Mukesh pleads, pointing to the debris surrounding him. "All our belongings – furniture, utensils – all broken. They assaulted the older people, even a pregnant lady. When we tried to retrieve our things, they told us to just bury everything. I've lost my job, my children can't go to school. Where should we go? Even now, electricity bills for services we no longer have keep coming."

Not far from Mukesh's remains, Tarzan sits among the remnants of his home, holding onto a photograph of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "We were promised flats. During the last elections, they ushered us into a bus, took us to see these government flats and asked us to take photos," Tarzan recounts showing the picture.

Asked who made these promises, Tarzan doesn't hesitate: "BJP people. They assured us these flats would be ours if ever our homes got demolished but after this demolition, the politicians have vanished."

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When questioned about his current living situation, Tarzan’s resignation is evident. "I'm still here, amidst the ruins of my former home. We got the eviction notice just a day before they bulldozed our lives."

G20 summit | Demolition and Diplomacy

Tarzan shows us a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and recounts the broken promises made by politicians during last elections | Photo courtesy: The Probe

G20 Summit | Manisha Devi: From Home to Rubble

Manisha Devi, a ragpicker with anguish clear in her eyes, speaks of the heart-wrenching day her life was thrown into chaos. "They brought in a bulldozer and demolished everything," she recounts, her voice trembling with the fresh trauma of that day.

When questioned about her current living situation, she responds with defiance, "We're staying here. We’ll continue to live here. We even cook our food on the chulha amid the debris." But her strength waivers when she speaks of her children, particularly her 6-year-old daughter, who was allegedly assaulted during the eviction. “Ever since she was beaten, she's been too scared to go anywhere. She doesn't go to school now. How can she?”

DDA's Stance

Our efforts to get an official response from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) were met with silence. However, insiders revealed that the proximity of the slum to a water body was the justification for its demolition.

The Subhash Camp at Badarpur was just one of the many slums being demolished ahead of the G20 summit. While the government is fervently preparing for the mega event, there seems to be little concern about securing temporary housing for the displaced. Although India’s grand G20 hosting may shine brightly on the international stage, the narratives of these Delhi citizens will resonate in the shadows, away from the limelight.

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