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‘We Were Given Just 12 Hrs’
August 11, 2011
‘We Were Given Just 12 Hrs’

Historical treasures found near Hampi’s bazaar street didn’t make life any better for owners of houses and shops, whose structures were demolished. Not rehabilitated by authorities, they are now living on streets.


11 August 2011

Niranjan Kaggere, Hampi:

Circa 1565: A confederacy of the Bahmani Sultanate invaded the erstwhile Vijaynagar Empire at Hampi and reduced the royal empire to rubble.

2011: In a pre-dawn operation on July 29, a team of officials from Bellary invaded Hampi’s main bazaar street and razed commercial establishments and residential buildings, leaving hundreds of people out on the streets.

While authorities, archaeologists and historians are rubbing their hands in glee over the unexpected treasure that was unearthed, the people who bore the brunt of the drive are furious.

“We were told that the High Court had ordered the removal of encroachments alongside the bazaar street and officials of Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority carried out the operations. But the court clearly said that the people should be provided with proper rehabilitation and compensation. But this was not done — officials demolished the entire street in one go,” said Suri, owner of a commercial establishment in Hampi.
Not enough notice

Another grouse is that officials didn’t give people sufficient notice to relocate. “We were informed about the demolition around 9pm on July 28 and from the next morning, bulldozers were at work, pulling down the walls. Electricity and water connections were cut off the same night. The authorities didn’t even provide shelter or sustenance. People had nowhere to go on that rainy day. They have been living on the streets for the last two days,” said Krishna Kumar, a resident.

“We are not against evictions,” says Suri. “But people had settled there legally and have proof. In fact, the Unesco guideline says that people should be provided with rehabilitation and enough compensation before evicting them. All these days, the government was sleeping over the orders, but now that the court has set a deadline, they have woken up, causing hardship to the people.”

Distraught residents approached Vijayanagar MLA Anand Singh but he was helpless since the HC had directed the operations.

“It is true that people have been living there for many years. But there have been violations as well. We cannot disobey the HC orders but at the same time, we can’t leave people on the streets. We will soon make alternative arrangements for them to lead a peaceful life,” Singh promised.

The buzz is gone: Tourists

Even foreign tourists who were lodged at local residences along the street are throwing their weight behind the evicted. Stian Krog, a tourist from Germany, said, “It’s a crying shame. The fear that was palpable throughout my field visit has come true at last. Poor people are being bulldozed away in the name of heritage. Now, Hampi Bazaar will be nothing but an empty shell of the once vibrant town I used love.”

Linda, a tourist from US, said, “This is a sad and mistaken bureaucratic action that could have been done in a different way. We remember the buzz, hum and fragrance of the bazaar when we were there and it is sad that they have destroyed so many people’s way of life.”

Samantha Smith said she was speechless. “India has become a country where money talks. I wonder who paid who and how much to be able to orchestrate this!”