Even as shop owners claimed that were not given any notice, MCD said that the shop owners were informed about the demolition exercise well in advance and there was a verbal consensus between shop owners and the MCD.
‘No notice in writing was sent to us. The demolition drive started at 10am on Saturday. Our shops were shut at the time and there was nobody there. All our stocks were destroyed. The fact that the government does not care about us is obvious,’’ claimed Chand Ji Shahbadi, general secretary, Kashmiri Migrants’ Market Association, Super Bazar, INA.
The MCD sources, however, denied any such claims.’ We had to complete the demolition exercise before June end. Our office was also vandalized some time back, so we could not process paper work before the drive,’’ said an MCD official.
However, sources from the NDMC maintained distance from the issue as the shops were in the MCD area.
‘‘They offered us shops near the nullah, 6 by 4 feet, whereas we were promised 7 by 8 feet shops initially. If beautification of the city is their agenda, it cannot come at the cost of our livelihoods. We came here because we believed that our country will take care of us,’’ said a disheartened Kuldip Qanongoo, who has been living in Delhi for the past 20 years.
The shopkeepers after being displaced from Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of militancy in 1990, started their business at this place in 2001.
The state government had taken up the task of providing a shopping complex with 360 shops for Kashmiri Pandits near the Safdurjung Hospital. But the construction of the mall has not started yet. Thus, after the demolition of shops at INA the shopkeepers are left with no alternative.
‘‘We have been constantly harassed by state governments and political parties alike. However, if they think that they can use such tricks to break our spirit and force us to run away from this place then they are wrong,’’ said Rakesh Razdan, a shop owner.