Gulpsa, a woman in her twenties, sat on a boundary wall that separated Amir Khusrao Park—situated near the dargah of the Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi—and the footpath next to the road that ran alongside it. The park was the site of a jhuggi-jhopri cluster—a settlement of temporary houses, which, in this instance, were made of bamboo sticks and tarpaulin sheets. The cluster was home to over 200 families. On 16 May 2017, officials from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) bulldozed the jhuggis. The evicted residents of the Amir Khusrau Park jhuggi-jhopri I spoke to said that it was a Muslim settlement. Many of its residents worked as labourers or hawkers, while some begged for a living.
At around 3 pm that day, as Gulpsa stared silently in the direction of the park, several other women sat amid the rubble of the hundreds of jhuggis that previously lay there. Some of them were wailing. Children jumped on the rubble, from one broken bamboo stick to another, to reach the site where their homes previously stood. Some men were still retrieving their belongings, such as steel boxes, utensils or clothes. When I asked Gulpsa where her home used to be, she indicated its direction with her eyes. “There,” she said, “beside the house of the mullah.” As we spoke, a bulldozer in the park continued to crush the rubble that remained after the demolition.
Several men and women sat on the footpath, surrounded by household objects—including broken almirahs, beds, utensils, stoves, gas cylinders and televisions. Nearby, police officers wearing protective gear were stationed with two riot-control police vehicles parked along the footpath.