“The bulldozers were running over our homes even without any prior notice. We all ran to save our belongings, only to find most of them destroyed,” says Geetha, a former iron carver who is now working as a maid in homes nearby. She belongs to Gadia Lohar community, which seeks its origins from Rajasthan and finds its existence in History for it’s allegiance to a Rajput ruler, Maharana Pratap. In 2009, the state government decided to demolish their settlement, located ahead of the Tyagaraj Stadium in South Delhi during a ‘beautification spree’ just before the Delhi Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010.

The Delhi High Court’s judgement in 2010 directed the authorities to plan a proper rehabilitation policy for the victims within 4 months of the demolishment. More than 6 years have passed but the rehabilitation is yet to be provided. The previous settlement of the community was at the roadside where it was easier for them to find customers. “My father used to earn around Rs. 400-500 daily. Now it’s not even Rs. 150, including the earnings of both of us.” says Kuldeep (26), who dropped from college 6 years ago to help his father in overcoming the financial crisis of the family.

A 2011 report from Housing and Land Rights Network suggests that more than 2,50,000 people were virtually displaced just before the CWG 2010 in Delhi. “How can they destroy our homes and call it a nation-building? How can they take our homes away just like that?” asks Gagan Singh (33), a former blacksmith, who now works as a contractual labourer. The community is currently based in a temporary settlement in a marginalized and deprived state.

Geetha (35), a mother of 2 children, used to work as an iron carver before her community was forced to leave their settlement in 2009. Now she is working as a maid in nearby houses.
Geetha (35), a mother of 2 children, used to work as an iron carver before her community was forced to leave their settlement in 2009. Now she is working as a maid in nearby houses.
Rohit Sisodia (32), along with her wife, Sunita (30) and two children. His occupation as a blacksmith suffered a lot after the demolishment."No one comes here, away from the road to this settlement for getting their job done.They usually hire roadside blacksmiths," says Rohit
Rohit Sisodia (32), along with her wife, Sunita (30) and two children. His occupation as a blacksmith suffered a lot after the demolishment.”No one comes here, away from the road to this settlement for getting their job done.They usually hire roadside blacksmiths,” says Rohit
Iron tools kept in one of the Blacksmith's shops for sale.
Iron tools kept in one of the Blacksmith’s shops for sale.
 Gagan Singh (33), with his daughter, Medha (12). He returned home after 6 months from Jodhpur. Compelled to leave his traditional occupation of blacksmith due to the financial problems, he is now working there as a contractual labourer.
Gagan Singh (33), with his daughter, Medha (12). He returned home after 6 months from Jodhpur. Compelled to leave his traditional occupation of blacksmith due to the financial problems, he is now working there as a contractual labourer.
Mishtha (31), Gagan’s wife.
Mishtha (31), Gagan’s wife.
Worshipping place along with a traditional 'Hukka'. There used to be a temple in the previous settlement which was demolished in 2009. From then onwards the community has made this place their worshipping spot.
Worshipping place along with a traditional ‘Hukka’. There used to be a temple in the previous settlement which was demolished in 2009. From then onwards the community has made this place their worshipping spot.
The living conditions in these settlements are tough. Usually, a family of 6-7 people lives in a single room.
The living conditions in these settlements are tough. Usually, a family of 6-7 people lives in a single room.
Ramesh Singh (55), is jobless for years. Suffering from the pulmonary Tuberculosis, he is not able to treat himself in any of the governmenthospitals as most of his official papers were lost during the demolishment.
Ramesh Singh (55), is jobless for years. Suffering from the pulmonary Tuberculosis, he is not able to treat himself in any of the government hospitals as most of his official papers were lost during the demolishment.
Vicky Chauhan (36), a blacksmith standing in his shop. He is hardly able to earn enough through the profession which he perceives as an art after he was forced to leave his roadside shop during the demolishment in 2009.
Vicky Chauhan (36), a blacksmith standing in his shop. He is hardly able to earn enough through the profession which he perceives as an art after he was forced to leave his roadside shop during the demolishment in 2009.
Mukundilal Chauhan (62), is one of the eldest members of the settlement. He is the one who is leading the fight for his community’s rights on various platforms.
Mukundilal Chauhan (62), is one of the eldest members of the settlement. He is the one who is leading the fight for his community’s rights on various platforms.
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Radha, doing her household chores.
Even the temporary settlement is in danger of being evacuated since the Delhi Metro construction is getting intense in the area.
Even the temporary settlement is in danger of being evacuated since the Delhi Metro construction is getting intense in the area.

Vishank Singh is a New Delhi-based blogger/photojournalist who is currently pursuing his Masters in Convergent Journalism from AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia. You may contact him at vishanksingh1@gmail.com.

3 Comments

  1. Niteesh Kumar says:

    The images and the story, both reflects an honest intention. Nice work Vishank Singh!

  2. Adil Hasan says:

    Wonderful work. good photos

  3. Prashant Shukla says:

    Vry good photographs. Beautiful way of telling d story. Good job Vishak.