Jalandhar: Homeless after demolition drive, Latifpura residents to boycott poll : The Tribune India

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Jalandhar: Homeless after demolition drive, Latifpura residents to boycott poll

Say continue to live in tents, no leader cared to find a solution to their problems

Jalandhar: Homeless after demolition drive, Latifpura residents to boycott poll

Clockwise from top: Tents set up in Latifpura area in Jalandhar. Tribune Photo: Malkiat Singh



Tribune News Service

Avneet Kaur

Jalandhar, May 22

With the city engulfed in election fever, there is a poignant silence in Latifpura, a once thriving neighbourhood in the posh Model Town area. Here, echoes of political promises are conspicuously absent. No candidate has ventured into this area to seek votes. Latifpura, devastated by a massive demolition drive in December 2022, now stands as a haunting reminder of forgotten citizens.

Kulwant Kaur and Baljinder Kaur narrate their ordeals in Jalandhar.Tribune Photos: Malkiat Singh

The residents, displaced by the state’s action, have declared a boycott of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. They say their protest is a cry for help that has gone unanswered for nearly a year and a half. Living under makeshift tents in the blistering heat, they feel abandoned by every political party and leader.

In December 2022, around 50 permanent homes were razed, leaving families to fend for themselves. While some managed to find rented accommodations nearby and attempted to rebuild their lives, about 18 to 20 families, whose homes and livelihoods were obliterated, continue to live in tents. They hold onto a fragile hope that one day the government will remember them.

25 people share 2 portable toilets

The situation deteriorates daily, with essential supplies getting scarce. Twenty-five people share two portable toilets, and they bathe in a nearby gurdwara. The land where our houses once stood has wild grass and debris, creating health hazards. —Baljinder Kaur, A widow

Latifpura, which consists of nearly 150 to 200 voters, has collectively decided to abstain from voting. Their resolve stems from their deep-seated belief that no political figure or party has addressed their suffering. “Opposition parties flocked to us when our houses were demolished, posing for pictures and promising to ensure justice. But it seems like it was all just a publicity stunt,” the residents said.

Baljinder Kaur, a 42-year-old widow who lost her five-marla home, said: “Animals in zoos and shelter homes have better lives than us. I challenge government officials and political leaders to spend even one day here in these tents in this extreme heat. Maybe then they might have some mercy on us and think of rehabilitating us.”

She said the situation deteriorates daily, with essential supplies getting scarce. “Twenty-five people share two portable toilets, and they bathe in a nearby gurdwara. The land where our houses once stood has become overgrown with wild grass and debris, creating severe health hazards,” she said.

Gurdyal Singh, 65, who has lived his entire life in Latifpura, now spends his twilight years under a tent. “We are Punjabis who have lived here all our lives. But the government treats us like enemies from a neighbouring country,” he laments.

Kulwant Kaur, also a resident, recounts her anguish of getting her daughter married in a tent. “Living in these conditions, I realised it was not safe for my young daughter. I had to arrange her marriage in Bhogpur with just a few relatives and the groom’s family. It was humiliating to marry her off without a proper roof over our heads,” she said.

Latifpura residents say they are frustrated with the state government’s indifference. “We have endured the harsh winter and now face the scorching summer. Our children spend nights in temporary shelters, they have discontinued their studies and their dreams stand shattered along with our homes. The demolition not only took away our homes but also crushed our dreams of a dignified life, leaving us stranded on the streets,” they rued.

50 homes were razed in 2022

In December 2022, around 50 permanent homes were razed, leaving families to fend for themselves. While some managed to find rented accommodations nearby and attempted to rebuild their lives, about 18 to 20 families, whose homes and livelihoods were obliterated, continue to live in tents. They hold onto a fragile hope that one day the government will remember them.

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