New Delhi: Hundreds were rendered homeless in the winter chill and a six-month-old baby died after authorities demolished hutments built on railway land in the national capital, witnesses and police said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused the railways of demolishing 500 hutments on Saturday, “in such cold”, leaving hundreds of poor — men, women and children — shivering in the open.
“A child died. God will never forgive them,” Kejriwal tweeted.
After visiting the spot at Shakur Basti around 2 a.m. on Sunday, he said: “Coming back from the demolition site. Heart rending scenes. How (could) our own countrymen do this to our poorest fellow countrymen?”
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury added: “How can authorities resort to mindless demolitions leading to the death of a child, leaving slum dwellers to suffer, roofless in winter?”
Grieving family members alleged that the baby died when a heavy object collapsed during the demolition. The railways, however, said they had nothing to do with the death.
A railway official said the hutments were built illegally on railway land and the shanty dwellers had been told to vacate the land to make space for a new railway line but they chose not to.
Kejriwal said he suspended two sub-divisional magistrates and a superintending engineer for not providing relief to the hutment dwellers.
He said that when he spoke to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, “he said he was not aware of this operation. He was also shocked”.
The chief minister pointed out that there were court orders to raze properties of some of the rich and politicians in Delhi but those orders were never implemented.
The Aam Aadmi Party blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the demolition. The BJP and the Congress hit back, saying Kejriwal should have acted ahead of the razing, not later.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Pushpendra Kumar called the operation an “anti-encroachment drive” by the railways. “It was not demolition,” Kumar told reporters.