Sunday, December 9, 2018

In Delhi for VHP event, anti-riot force made to stay at shelter home

A 115-member RAF unit, which arrived from Chennai on Friday, was put up at a homeless shelter in Sarai Kale Khan after attempts by police to arrange a school or a community hall in the neighbourhood failed.
  Delhi,VHP,RAF
The RAF personnel were put up at a Sarai Kale Khan shelter where homeless people from neighbouring night shelter homes were sharing their amenities with them. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)



For a group of Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel camping in Delhi to handle a possible breakdown in law and order during a rally planned by the Vishva Hindu Parishad on Sunday, a tin shed for the homeless in Sarai Kale Khan served as shelter on the coldest night so far this winter.

The 115-member RAF unit from Chennai had arrived in Delhi late on Friday night after handling mob violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr. Tasked with controlling riots and handling crowds, the RAF is a specialised wing of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).


Their stay was arranged by the local police after it received a request from the RAF at the “last moment” on Friday night. Police said they zeroed down on the shelter home after their “urgent attempts” to arrange a school or a community hall in the neighbourhood failed.

The accommodation, which includes two large halls partitioned by a tin wall, is among three shelter homes constructed for the homeless in a compound near Sarai Kale Khan interstate bus terminus. Delhi police as well as the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) that manages these shelter homes clarified that the homeless residents of the shelter were not evicted to accommodate the paramilitary personnel. The two departments said this particular shed is yet to be opened for the homeless.

VP Singh, a RAF inspector, said, “We would have set up our own tents had we found a large open space with some basic amenities. But this is winter and the conditions are harsh. We could not find any open ground to pitch our tents and park our trucks. So, we urged the local police for help and they helped us in staying at the unoccupied shelter home.”  The night-time temperature was 7.6 degrees Celsius, the lowest this season.

“We now have a decent space to sleep, a make-shift kitchen, toilets, drinking water and parking space. We are thankful to the homeless people in the neighbouring shelter homes for sharing their amenities with us,” Singh added.

On Saturday evening, some RAF personnel cooked dinner next to portable toilets, a few others guarded about half-a-dozen trucks while most others rested on blankets spread over red mats inside the tin shed. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

When asked about the RAF men being put up in the homeless shelter, RR Bhatnagar, director general of CRPF, said his officers were focusing on the task at hand. “It is the responsibility of the authorities of states that summon us to provide us accommodation. We do our bit by pitching in with our own men and material,” said Bhatnagar.

All the homeless people HT spoke to inside the compound denied allegations that they had been evicted to accommodate the officers. “We are happy as long as no one takes over our shed,” said Dal Chand, a homeless resident.

“ We were not using the new shed. It would sometimes be occupied by railway passengers passing through Delhi. Until a few days ago, the new shed was being used for some training during the day, ” said Sooraj, another resident.

On Saturday evening, some RAF personnel cooked dinner next to portable toilets, a few others guarded about half-a-dozen trucks while most others rested on blankets spread over red mats inside the tin shed. At the other two sheds, it was life as usual for the city’s homeless residents.

The police said they arranged the accommodation in “good faith”, it did not go down well with Indu Prakash Bindu, a member of a Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee for shelters for the homeless.

“The RAF personnel deserve care and humane accommodation but not at the cost of the homeless people. These shelter homes should be used exclusively for the homeless . It is never safe to put the police or the paramilitary personnel along with homeless people in any case,” said Bindu. Nikesh Kumar, project coordinator of the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM), an NGO that manages the shelter home, said tno homeless person had to be displaced to accommodate the RAF personnel and that the shed was yet to be opened. Kumar also said the other two sheds nearby are anyway less than full. Bipin Kumar Rai, DUSIB’s member-expert, said the RAF men’s stay in the shelter home hadn’t been at the cost of the homeless people. “There was space in the shelter home and the RAF men were to stay for just a night or two, so we decided to permit them,” said Rai.--HT



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