Jammu’s Airport expansion project renders 61 families homeless

Straight Line News Network

Jammu, Nov 29: Satya Devi, a 65-year-old Chamb Refugee was rendered homeless amidst heavy rains on Wednesday as a demolition drive was conducted for the Jammu Airport Expansion project in Satwari.

The Centre had given clearance for the expansion of the runway at the Jammu Airport which required the evacuation and rehabilitation of people living in over sixty-one houses around the airport. All of them were thrown out to the streets since their houses were demolished. Police and CRPF personnel were present to avoid protests and despite numerous requests, the homes were destroyed by JCB machines.

Jammu airport belongs to Indian Air Force and due to compulsory acquisition for the expansion project, the residents living near the airport were told to evacuate their houses before 20th November. However, the residents allege that the land given to them in Sunjwan area of Jammu for rehabilitation is disputed. Moreover, they said that the amount of compensation that has been decided for them is according to an estimate made fourteen years ago and which would fetch them nothing in today’s day and age. Furthermore, even that compensation was not given to them before the demolition drive.

Many of the residents took shelter in Gurudwaras while others had to manage to sleep on footpaths or petrol pumps since they no longer had any shelter.

“DC Jammu had told us to stay in rented accommodation or in the house of our relatives. I told her that she is also like my daughter. Will she let me live in her home?” said Satya Devi, in tears.

Bimla Devi, another resident said, “We had been living here for over seventy years. We were in favour of the expansion. We just wanted what was our right – fair compensation and a place to stay. But the government has given us nothing. If they have allotted us a disputed land, they should at least put up temporary tents or sheds there for us to stay.”

The families included old-aged women who held on to some articles from their destroyed homes like pictures of Lord Krishna or Guru Nanak Dev. The rest of the objects from their homes stood destroyed on the same land where their houses once used to be. Children were found in disarray over their future.

“I had just come from school when I was told that JCB had come and they were destroying our homes. I haven’t eaten anything. What are we going to do now?” said Sam, a 10-year-old.

“Our case is already in court but they have done such injustice to us and that too amidst heavy rains. Immediately they made us homeless. This is the place where we were born and we had made our home with so much effort over the years. We waited for the court decision but while the hearing is going on, they already destroyed our homes,” said Jasveer Singh.

Most of the residents repeated the same words while others could say nothing due to their incessant sobbing. A 90-year-old who had come to India from Sialkot during the partition was among the people who now had no place to go.

“My son is dead. It was my daughter who had constructed this house after working herself to the bone and now the house doesn’t exist. Who will feed me now?” said the 90-year-old while crying.