House Razed, Tunnel Rescue Hero Threatens Hunger Strike If It's Not Rebuilt

Wakeel Hassan said DDA officials told him he would later be provided a house but he refused the offer as it was only a "verbal assurance".

House Razed, Tunnel Rescue Hero Threatens Hunger Strike If It's Not Rebuilt

Wakeel Hassan's house was razed during a demolition drive in Delhi. (File)

New Delhi:

Hours after razing his house in a demolition drive in Delhi, the DDA offered to move Wakeel Hassan, a rat-hole miner who was part of the Silkyara tunnel rescue operation, and his family to an EWS flat at Narela but he declined the offer, officials said on Thursday.

Speaking to PTI, Mr Hassan demanded that his house be constructed on the same land and said he would go on a hunger strike if his demand is not met.

Mr Hassan said Delhi Development Authority (DDA) officials told him that he was offered temporary accommodation late on Wednesday night and would later be provided a house but he refused the offer as it was only a "verbal assurance".

This comes a day after Mr Hassan alleged that the DDA razed his house in Delhi's Khajoori Khas on Wednesday without prior notice to him. Mr Hassan and his family spent the night outside following the demolition drive.

Standing by its action, the DDA later in a statement said that "in its role as an authority, it cannot allow encroachment on its land or unauthorised constructions in its development areas".

The DDA also said Mr Hassan was aware of his house's “status of encroachment” as it had been previously removed in 2016 and was encroached upon again in 2017.

Asserting that it was a "routine encroachment removal drive", the DDA said Wednesday's action did not “target any particular individual".

Having come to know about the contributions of Mr Hassan in the rescue operation in Uttarakhand, the DDA "extended its hand of support" to the family but it was refused, the DDA said in a statement.

The urban body, however, clarified that "at no point of time before or during the demolition exercise, were the DDA officials aware of Mr Hassan's role in the rescue operation in Uttarakhand.

On Wednesday, the DDA said the demolition drive was carried out on land that was "part of planned development land".

Some TV channels showed Mr Hassan and his family sitting and having dinner amid the rubble of what used to be their home.

He spent the night on the street with his wife and two children near the spot where their house stood. The family's neighbours' provided them with food and other necessary items.

Not long ago, the rat-hole miner was feted for being part of a team that rescued the 41 workers trapped in Uttarkashi's Silkyara tunnel in November last year.

The DDA, in its statement, said when Mr Hassan's role in the tunnel rescue operation came to light, officials made alternate arrangements of shelter for his family and went to the site and contacted him.

The DDA said it offered "an EWS flat at Narela as an immediate measure of shelter. However, Wakeel refused the offer and demanded a house where it once stood.

"We want our own house at our own place. I request people to give me my own home. This house was bought for Rs 33 lakh in 2016. My friends and relatives live in the area. I want to live among them. Narela is quite far from my home. What will I do if I go there? I urge DDA to return my own two-room house that they have demolished," Mr Hassan told PTI.

"We don't want anything, just want our home back. If our demand will not get fulfilled, then we will sit on a hunger strike," he said.

Earlier, Mr Hassan had asked the authorities to make their assurances in writing.

Mr Hassan claimed DDA officials told him that "a house will also be provided in the Govindpuri area soon", but he refused their offer because the assurance was "verbal". He had alleged on Wednesday that no notice was served to him before the demolition.

However, the DDA said in its statement: "The family (of Hassan) was in the know of their status of encroachment".

Mr Hassan was "also aware of the encroachment on the land” which was removed earlier in 2016 but it was encroached by him again in 2017, the DDA said.

"In 2016, the DDA, initiating a demolition drive, reclaimed its three land parcels from encroachment (from the area)," the statement said, adding, during inspections in 2017, it was found that two individuals were "again encroaching two of these three land parcels".

"This serious violation was promptly reported to the police, triggering a scheduled demolition programme set for June 2018," the DDA said.

However, the execution of the demolition programme faced "significant challenges as the family, identified as the encroachers, resisted the enforcement. Explanations were also sought from errant officials for having allowed such re-encroachments," the statement said.

Demolitions were again scheduled in September and December in 2022. These attempts of demolitions were "once again thwarted by the women of the family who attempted to inflict physical harm upon themselves and threatened self-immolation after barricading themselves within the premises," the DDA claimed in the statement.

All these attempts to demolish this property were well within the knowledge of Mr Hassan and his family and were aware about their status as encroachers, it said.

However, given the contribution made by Mr Hassan in the rescue operation of the workers in Uttarakhand, the "DDA will still continue with its efforts to provide its help to the family" of Hassan, it added.

The demolition team and local police reached the location and requested Mr Hassan's family to “vacate the encroached area”, the DDA said.

“After affording sufficient time to (Hassan) for removal of their belongings from the encroached structure, the encroached area was cleared," the statement said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)