Daman, Gujarat in India: Daman and Diu are two small coastal enclaves located in Western India. Both Daman and Diu are former Portuguese colonies.
In December 2018, local residents of Daman and Diu received official looking documents purportedly following the orders of the State Administrator, Mr Praful K. Patel ordering the confiscation of the land and ordering the demolition of homes along the Daman coast to make way for development of the Daman and Diu coastline.
Who are the victims of the land confiscated land and whose homes have been demolished under the orders of the State Administrator of Daman, Mr Praful Patel?
The affected land and property is predominantly owned by by the indigenous fishing communities who have lived and worked there for generations. The land and property in question is owned by Indians and by non resident Indians (NRIs) predominantly economic migrant workers who have moved to and settled in Leicester, U.K. and by those Indians holding Portuguese passports in Daman by virtue of the fact that the region is a former Portuguese colony.
It is estimated that approximately 200,000 people maybe affected over time, unless the current breaches are challenged . The owners of the land and property in question are originally from the indigenous poor fishing communities in Daman, a coastal region, unblemished by commercial development. Their homes have been bulldozed and demolished allegedly to make way for ‘tent village’ for tourists from the ‘dry’ (States where the sale of alcohol is prohibited) surrounding States.
The owners of this land and property maintain that the authorities have no legal right to confiscate their land demolish their homes. They are adamant that they were not consulted. No attempt was made to contact them. Their possessions were destroyed during the demolition of their respective property. They were not given any notice to remove their personal possessions from their homes. They further maintain that the legal process and procedures were not strictly followed.
In 2018, the region suffered floods which resulted in homes being flooded. As well as water damage, their homes were invaded by snakes. The residents appealed to the State for help and support. The residents maintain that their please were ignored.
The Indian victims of this eviction are mostly vulnerable, uneducated, old, disabled and the young have been left on the streets to fend for themselves; homeless and without any support whatsoever. They are unaware of their Human Rights and therefore not in a position to assert their rights. Many of the evicted are currently living on the streets near their demolished homes traumatised by their experience.
Some people have been offered alternative homes currently being built further inland from their original homes however, they are expected to financially contribute to the costs of the houses and to pay a monthly rent towards the same. Obviously, they the Forcibly evicted do not have the means to pay the same. No one knows what their fate will be.
The State Government’s actions are beyond the remit of their powers and therefore illegal. The authorities must return/replace the land and property to the rightful owners and in addition, compensate the victims for the losses and for the damages that they suffered.
The actions of the State are a gross abuse and breaches of Article 17 of the the United Nations Declaration in relation to Human Rights which maintains that:
(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
The affected people include generations of families from the fishing communities who have legitimately acquired the land and have built and lived in their homes for over five decades in a number of cases.
Despite living abroad, the Daman community settled in Leicester continue to make their links with Daman; The community have links with their extended families and friends in Daman. Second and third generations and their families travel to Daman specifically to have their wedding ceremonies and to celebrate their marriages with their family and friends in Daman.
The Daman communities in Leicester link to Daman is strong. It includes repatriating the bodies of their deceased to Daman for cremation in accordance with their beliefs.
Public and personal records evidence that the affected people are registered with and that they have been paying property tax in relation to their land and property to the local Municipal Council for generations.
Further, records show that the affected people are formally registered with and pay utility providers for their electric and water supplies. In addition, they have been granted ‘Aadhaar’cards by the Government of India which effectively are identity cards and are only granted upon scrutiny, verification of identity and ownership of property in order to access services and benefits such as grants provided by the Government. This is indisputable evidence of ownership of the land and property in issue.
Unfortunately for the victims, despite legitimate ownership of the land and/or property, it is not formally registered on the Government’s central land records. Accordingly, it is ‘unregistered’ land and property.
Registration involves a formal investigation and verification of title. It is a legal and procedural process which can be costly. However, the registration of land and property avoids the uncertainty of ownership and third party claims to any land property. The fact that the land and property is not registered in these cases, has left it open to exploitation. The remedy is to apply for the land to be registered to avoid future claims.
The victims of this injustice and breach of their Human Rights are seeking an immediate halt to the confiscation of their land; The return of their land to them; Compensation from the State to rebuild their homes on their original land as well as compensation for their possessions destroyed during the unlawful eviction and demolition of their homes.