Ground Report: Cheer In Pakistani Hindu Camp As Tata Power Begins Setting Up Electricity Connection On Order Of Delhi High Court

by Swati Goel Sharma - Dec 8, 2022 12:39 PM +05:30 IST
Ground Report: Cheer In Pakistani Hindu Camp As Tata Power Begins Setting Up Electricity Connection On Order Of Delhi High CourtResidents of Pakistani Hindu refugee camp in Adarsh cheer the Delhi high court order
Snapshot
  • The petition was filed by Hari Om Sahoo, a resident of Adarsh Nagar who volunteers for Hindu welfare organisations and has been at the forefront of managing this camp.

In New Delhi’s Adarsh Nagar area near Masjis Park metro station, on a sprawling ground amid a maze of flyovers, are a cluster of shanties housing Hindu migrants from Pakistan.

They have been settling here in batches since 2013, helped by Hindu activists.

For the first time, they will have electricity. Work is on in full swing, and residents could use the power next week if all goes well.

The connection is being installed on orders of the Delhi High Court which, in several hearings, pulled up the union and state governments for having let the residents go on without electricity for so many years.

A view of the camp
A view of the camp
Shikhar Sharma
A view of the camp
A view of the camp
Shikhar Sharma
A view of the camp
A view of the camp
Shikhar Sharma
A view of the camp
A view of the camp
Shikhar Sharma
Electricity poles being set up
Electricity poles being set up
Hari Om Sahoo
Electricity poles being set up
Electricity poles being set up
Hari Om Sahoo
Electricity poles being set up
Electricity poles being set up
Hari Om Sahoo
Hari Om Sahoo (left in the picture) with this correspondent
Hari Om Sahoo (left in the picture) with this correspondent
Shikhar Sharma

The petition was filed by Hari Om Sahoo, a resident of Adarsh Nagar who volunteers for Hindu welfare organisations and has been at the forefront of managing this camp. He is otherwise a swimming coach. 

When I visited the camp last week, Hari Om was helping a newly arrived family from Sindh set up an accommodation here. A middle-aged man and his teenage son, both clad in a Pathani kurta and salwar in a dark shade of blue, were ferrying wooden boards into a room which had walls covered with clay and cow dung. 

The men say they have not changed their clothes since they arrived two days ago. They request to not publish their names in the report as their families were still in Sindh.

Their plan is to set up the room, find an employment and then make another visit to Sindh to bring them all.

The men have already heard the good news that there will be electricity soon. “Electricity or no electricity, India is our home,” the elder one says, rather cheerfully.

As I move around the camp, I see familiar faces from my last visit in 2018. I had reported that time how officials from Tata Power had come and taken away the cables using which some shanties were illegally drawing power.

A picture of the camp clicked in 2018
A picture of the camp clicked in 2018
Swati Goel Sharma
A picture of the camp clicked in 2018
A picture of the camp clicked in 2018
Swati Goel Sharma

The residents had been stealing electricity and it was only a matter of time before they would be caught. The report triggered outrage on social media, and prompted intervention of a group of Indians living in the Unites States.

Hari Om says the group financed solar lighting for the camp. “One light bulb per family – thanks to the solar panels,” shares Hari Om.

In his petition filed through advocate Akash Vajpai, he pleaded that the residents must be provided with electricity as the union government had already issued them Aadhaar cards and long-term visas (LTVs).

They were forced to live without electricity as the electricity distributors - Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL) –  were demanding proof of ownership of the land they were occupying, the plea said.

The plea sought relief from this condition put forth by the TPDDL of a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the land-owning agency, which is the government of India/Defence Department/Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.

The TPDDL, on the other hand, told the court that an NOC was unquestionably required as poles were needed to be installed.

In a hearing just before Diwali, the division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad told the counsel representing the centre that the union government should have given the required go-ahead to the TPDDL as a “Diwali gift” as the migrants were “your own people”.

In the next hearing on 10 November, the bench directed the TPDDL to provide electricity to the camp in 30 days after the central government Standing Counsel produced a letter and stated that approval had been granted.

Hari Om says that at one point of time during the hearings, he deeply regretted having filed it in the first place as it seemed the residents would be evicted out of the government land.

“I will not say much, but if it were not for the judges, the government lawyer was ready to throw the migrants under the bus by questioning their occupation of the land,” he told this correspondent. “I was beginning to think I had made a blunder.”

Hari Om is referring to the union government’s position in October 2021 when their Counsel opposed the electricity connection for the camp arguing that the migrants had encroached the defence land.

“But the effort has borne fruit and that’s what matters in the end,” he says. “All thanks to the judges.”

Teerath Das, a resident of the camp who had not gone for work that day, said that the biggest problem — even bigger than the non-functional fans in the summers — was that the men were not able to charge their mobile phones.

Like most men in the camp, Teerath Das sells mobile accessories in the nearby markets. Women tend to household chores and make embroidered bedsheets and table covers. Teerath Das’s wife laughs when asked about her mobile phone, saying she does not have one, and says she wants more light bulbs. 

Like other women in the camp, she cooks on a clay oven (chulha) using wood as fuel. She prepares three cups of kahwa with jaggery and serves us with some namkeen.

This correspondent with the cam residents checking out their embroidered work
This correspondent with the cam residents checking out their embroidered work
Shikhar Sharma
A resident cooking on clay stove
A resident cooking on clay stove
Shikhar Sharma

Hari Om says the camp has 890 people, of which 220 are children, and this figure does not include the two persons who joined two days ago. 

Asked how he began working at the camp, Hari Om says that back in 2013, he would volunteer for a group that resisted Pakistani Muslim migrants setting up housing in Adarsh Nagar. “We have to ensure the demography does not change drastically,” he says.

“If you go to Attari-Wagah border and watch people entering India, you will see many burqa-clad women with large amounts of luggage. They come on tourist visa on the pretext of visiting Islamic dargahs, but stay here on long-term visa. Rich Muslims call them here to fill the houses they vacate for shifting to better colonies,” says Hari Om.

For the uninitiated, this is how Pakistani Hindus enter India: They typically arrive on a month-long pilgrim’s visa to Haridwar and Mathura or other places of Hindu religious significance, and subsequently apply for LTV for which they need a local resident as guarantor. 

“The way we act as guarantor for Hindus, local Muslims act as guarantor for Pakistani Muslims,” says Hari Om and shows a video he recorded two days ago from the border of a burqa-clad women carrying a large luggage on her head. “See, does it look like she is here only to visit some shrines?” 

Hari Om says he is a frequent visitor to the border as he needs to bring the migrants to New Delhi for rehabilitation.

Teerath Das
Teerath Das
Swati Goel Sharma
Teerath Das’s brother (in red)
Teerath Das’s brother (in red)
Swati Goel Sharma

Teerath Das’s younger brother, who is almost a lookalike of his elder brother, says that for the past eight years, residents have gone on without electricity, and when they come home after a hard day’s work, they do not get a working fan to sleep under.

He says that no room in the camp has a television or radio set, but they might buy one set for the camp after the connection work is complete.

Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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