The future of almost 700 Pakistani Hindu refugees who came to Delhi a few years back on a pilgrimage visa is now in danger as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to remove refugee shanties from the Yamuna floodplains at Majnu ka Tila in Delhi.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, while hearing the plea filed by lawyer Jagdev Khatri, seeking action against encroachments adjacent to the south of the gurdwara on the Yamuna riverbed, which he alleged has resulted in “massive felling of trees” thereby affecting the ecosystem and health of the Yamuna, took strong note of the report. Reprimanding the Delhi authorities for allowing such encroachments, the NGT directed authorities to remove the settlements.
Around 120 Hindu refugee families from Pakistan’s Sindh province are living on the floodplains near Majnu ka Tilla gurdwara, said a joint inspection report by the DDA, Delhi government and the Central Pollution Control Board, submitted to the NGT last month.
The report stated that: “About 120 families of approximately 700 Pakistani Hindu nationals who came to India on pilgrimage visa from 2011 to 2014 are staying in jhuggis and semi-permanent structures. The land under their occupation is nearly 5000 square yards.
Notably, this area occupied by these refugees belongs to the office of Land and Development coming under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and the responsibility of maintaining the land was granted to DDA on July 7, 1991.
While hearing the plea NGT chairman said: “You may permit them (refugees) to stay in India. But this does not mean they will illegally occupy the land,” adding that the law of the land applies to everyone, be it an Indian citizen or a refugee.
According to reports, these families which came to India from Pakistan a few years ago on a pilgrimage visa decided not to go back and settle here in India. They started living in slums near the banks of Yamuna. Gradually with passing days, these refugees acquired pan cards, Aadhar cards and bank accounts using Manju Ka Tila as their permanent address.
Moreover, the children of these refugees also started going to government schools nearby. These families have not been given electricity and have the water supply only through a common tap, yet they have been living in these jhuggis and semi-permanent structures for years now. In fact, some of the occupants have even started small shops near the footpath.