May 11th, 2016
[Article Summary: 500 people have become homeless because of a demolition drive. The local government ignored the stay of execution and went ahead and bulldozed some 100 home leaving 500 people homeless. They are now living in the street with no proper access to clean water, sanitation, proper toilets, and there is one kitchen to service 500 homeless. With the temperature around 50-degree celsius, it is difficult for them to survive, especially the children. We need to provide basic amenities to them as soon as possible. This case is happening in Hampi, village located in Koppal District, in Gangavathi Taluk, Sanapur Post, Illpapura Gaddi, North Hampi Island, Karnataka, India. We are contacting all human rights organizations- all over the world- to help us call attention to this atrocity. Women, children and families are pushed out of their homes and into the streets. They are void of all basic living needs. Please connect with Jack Greer 95451 34554 Sonia Sharma 96194 83851, email id: [email protected] or you can mail us at [email protected]]
For roughly 100 years, Hampi has been the home to some 500 villagers. Though Hampi is considered a Heritage site, the presence of these people makes Hampi a living Heritage site. That is to say that the people are an essential part of the site, itself. These settlements are also fully functioning villages, complete with infrastructure and schools to support the existing population. It is these local communities who have maintained the “soul” of Hampi by revealing the intrinsic values of this living heritage site without causing damage to the monuments or the environment.
Tourism in Hampi flourishes because of the relationship villagers have created with the outside world. Without the villagers, small business owners and guesthouses, there will be no more appeal to the tourist community. It is our suspicion that large corporate groups are behind the enforcement of the so-called UNESCO land protection and forest area “protection” so that they may build large, posh resorts. The arrival and implementation of big business will drive tourism away. The consequence of that will no doubt affect the entire Gangavathi, Koppal district area as well as the neighboring villages of Sanapur and Anegundi. This quest for immediate profits will displace hundreds, potentially thousands of villagers from local and surrounding areas.
Between 1960 and 1970, the local government had created a reserved forest area of the Hampi lands. After this creation, suddenly the people of Hampi find their land has become privately owned, government land, making them illegal residents of the land they have inhabited for nearly 100 years. Villagers have been offered no compensation or rehabilitation/relocation program option.
In 2006, there was an act passed that natural born jungle living people shall not be displaced from their native jungles or forests. The reserved forest area was deemed “reserved” well after local residents had resided in the area. Local residents are not disputing that they did not challenge the high court’s decision (which I can’t help to think is completely unfair considering the lack of decent legal council received) but what the high court has failed to consider that nowhere in the petitions against the village has there been a discussion regarding replacement, rehabilitation, relocation, or compensation.
Moving to the legalities. The village of Hampi had found a lawyer and after investing thousands of rupees, the first case was dismissed. Due to lack of consultation with village leaders of Hampi, the lawyer took it upon himself to not challenge the court decision. He demanded more money from the village to challenge the decision. They are poor; they were not able to pay. When the villagers collectively went to appeal the case, again, the lawyer took the money and when the case was dismissed, again he did not challenge the court’s decision. Now explain, when you are dealing with the poor, uneducated, people that cannot read or write, cannot defend themselves due to their place in life, people who do not even know the words “human rights”, “illegal”, “land acquisition”, “court”, “lawyer”, what is even the concept of challenging a court system or decision that they don’t even understand. They know not of what is even contained in our Indian Constitution of Rights so how does one expect these people to fight a fair fight? What’s worse is that the very lawyers of the local Hospet and Gangavathi courts have taken huge advantage of the village by taking their money while delivering a false sense of good management.
In article 21 of the Indian Constitutional Rights, all citizens, regardless of caste or creed, should be allowed to make a livelihood and if this is moved or shifted due to government needs or regulations, then citizens must be compensated or offered some kind of future living plan before any destruction of property can take place. The local government is breaking the law.
For years, these people have paid taxes to the very government that is demolishing their houses, putting their children wives and elderly on the streets. This demolition is leaving Hampi in ruin. Water towers have been bulldozed, there is a lack of proper sanitation, toilet system, basic needs that every human is entitled to. For us, these people are our family, our friends, human souls for whom we care very much about. We do not play into the caste system, which tells us that certain lives are more important or more valuable than others. For us, a life is a life, regardless of caste, creed, or socio-economic standing. Especially, when it is because of the good nature of the people of Hampi that thousands of tourists have been able to enjoy the fruits of these sacred lands.
The villagers received a notice that their town would be demolished for the 4th time, April 30, 2016. Together, with the villagers, we worked to get s stay of execution, preventing the demolition for 30 days. We then took two of the village’s leaders to Delhi to take the case to the Supreme Court. As soon as we left the village, the local government ignored the stay of execution and went ahead and bulldozed some 100 homes, starting with the homes of the two officials who were with us.
We are in the process to find legal representation to take this case to Supreme Court and we are told that we have a very strong case. We have met multiple lawyers yet we are looking for the right humans rights advocates to take this case. As it is, we cannot pay money from our own pocket nor do we think the villagers should have to pay.
We have reached out to the Red Cross as well as other disaster relief organizations yet have heard nothing back. We have been in contact with villagers; the local government is doing nothing to provide aide for these people. They are now living in the street with no proper access to clean water, sanitation, proper toilets, and there is one kitchen to service 500 homeless. With the heat factor near 50 Celsius every day, these people will soon die without access to clean water. Local police are restricting and monitoring who can enter and leave Hampi.
Since May 3, 2016, people are on the streets, suffering. They are scared, starving, and homeless. This type of thing is happening all over India, every day, people are put on the streets, pushed out of their villages. What makes our case different is that we are fighting for these people. If we can make an example out of this case, we have the chance to make an effect that could sweep across India. Please, we beg of you, help us.
Submitted By – Sonia Sharma