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India Must Halt Mass Eviction That Threatens To Leave 100,000 Homeless – UN Experts


GENEVA (16 July 2021) – UN human rights experts* today
called on India to halt evictions of some 100,000 people –
including 20,000 children – that began this week in the
midst of monsoon rains.

Demolition of homes began on
Wednesday, 14 July, in a village in Haryana State built on
protected forest land, even though the forest was actually
destroyed decades ago by heavy mining.

“We appeal to
the Indian government to respect its own laws and its own
goal of eliminating homelessness by 2022 and to spare homes
of 100,000 people who mostly come from minority and
marginalised communities,” the experts said. “It is
particularly important that residents be kept safe during
the pandemic.”

The experts said residents “have
already been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the
eviction order would put them at greater risk and bring even
more hardship to some 20,000 children – many of whom may
remain out of school – and 5,000 pregnant or breastfeeding
women.”

They live in Khori Gaon (village) in
Faridabad, in India’s north-central Haryana State, on land
that was designated as a protected forest in 1992, despite
there being no forests on it. Some 2,000 homes were
demolished earlier in two waves in September 2020 and April
this year. Residents challenging the evictions received a
severe setback when the Supreme Court last month ordered the
complete removal of the settlement by 19 July.

“We
find extremely worrying that India’s highest court, which
has in the past led the protection of housing rights, is now
leading evictions placing people at risk of internal
displacement and even homelessness, as is the case in Khori
Gaon,” the experts said. “The role of the Supreme Court
is to uphold the laws and to interpret them in light of
internationally-recognized human rights standards, not to
undermine them. In this case, the spirit and purpose of the
Land Acquisition Act 2013, among other domestic legal
requirements, have not been met.”

The experts added
that “lockdowns imposed during the pandemic have made it
difficult for settlement residents to earn a living, and
they are suffering

psychologically because of the
eviction threat.”

Water and electricity were cut off
several weeks ago. Human rights defenders and residents who
organised protests say they have been beaten by police and
arbitrarily detained. There have also been arbitrary orders
against the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly, the
experts said.

“We call on India to urgently review
its plans for razing Khori Gaon and to consider regularizing
the settlement so as not to leave anyone homeless,” the
experts said. “No one should be forcibly evicted without
adequate and timely compensation and redress.”

They
urged India, currently a member of the Human Rights Council,
to ensure that its policies and practices fully comply with
international human rights standards governing relocations,
evictions, and internal displacement especially on
government’s own land.

“It is especially important
that this act of mass displacement does not happen during
the pandemic,” they
said.

ENDS

*
*The experts
: Mr. Balakrishnan
Rajagopal
,
Special
Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right
to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to
non-discrimination in this context
. Ms.
Mary Lawlor,
Special
Rapporteur on the situation of human rights
defenders
. Ms. Cecilia
Jimenez-Damary
,
Special
Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced
Persons
. Fernand de Varennes,
Special
Rapporteur on minority issues
. Mr Pedro
Arrojo-Agudo,
Special
Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and
sanitation
. Mr. Olivier De Schutter,
Special
Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human
rights
. Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry,
Special
Rapporteur on the right to
education
.

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