‘Daughter’s wedding in Dec…but now I have no house’: 17 families in limbo as HC sets Kabul House eviction date | India News
The 17 families being evicted from Dehradun’s Kabul House got temporary respite from the Uttarakhand High Court, which has given them until December 1 to vacate the premises. While the decision gives the families some breathing room, they remain unsure where they will spend the winter as they prepare to leave, in less than a month, the house they have lived in for decades.
“My daughter’s wedding is scheduled on December 11, but now I have no house. I have already spent over Rs 3 lakh for her marriage. The tent and caterers have been booked, and I have no idea what to do now. The administration and police came on Thursday and removed everything from the house. The sofa, the fridge, and the dressing table that I purchased as a gift for my daughter’s wedding are all lying in the open outside my house. We have no place to go. We spent the last two nights in the open,” said Sanjay Chauhan, a Kabul House resident.
Kabul House, also known as Kapyong House, belonged to Mohammad Yakub Khan, the emir of Afghanistan, and was his residence from 1879, when he was dethroned following the Second Anglo-Afghan War and exiled from his country. He then moved to India and lived in Dehradun, in Kabul House, until his death in 1923. After Partition, Afghan royal family members left India and settled in Pakistan. The house was then designated “enemy property”.
However, some residents continued to live with their families in the house, which is located in an upscale area on Dehradun’s EC Road. The house is spread over 19 bighas of land and is estimated to be worth around Rs 400 crore.
Two weeks ago, the Dehradun District Magistrate court issued orders to vacate Kabul house in 15 days. This follows a 40-year legal battle between district authorities and the residents. This week, authorities started vacating the residents and sealing up the houses.
Among those who will be rendered homeless by the eviction include five families from the Valmiki Community, whose ancestors worked as sweepers for Yaqub Khan.
“When the Afghans settled here, our ancestors started working as sweepers for them. We were not educated, and the ruler gave our ancestors a place to live in their horse stables here in the Kabul house. When the Afghans left after Partition, we stayed here. My family has been living here for more than 100 years. My wife died seven years ago, and I live here with my two sons and a daughter,” said Chauhan, sitting outside the house on a broken plastic chair.
He said residents were first informed of the eviction on October 21, and four days later, he received a notice asking him to vacate the premises by November 1. “On Wednesday, the administration and police officials came to our houses asking us to vacate by the next morning. The next day, they came and removed all our belongings. They cut our water and electricity connections too,” Chauhan said.
The residents moved the High Court against the eviction coming during the festive season, and during a hearing on Thursday, the court allowed an extension until December 1.
However, according to another Kabul House resident, Nitin Singh, the administration has not reopened all the doors it had sealed shut. “In several houses, seals of only one entry door have been opened. It is causing us problems,” Singh said.
Manish Bhatia, a teacher living in the area, said that other than the five Valmiki families, the remaining residents of Kabul House are descendants of Pakistani refugees, and people working at the Dehradun ITI who settled here decades ago.
“My mother, Shakuntala Mehta, who used to live in what is now Pakistan, came to Dehradun in 1951 with her father, a government officer under the British Raj. In 1964, she settled here. Like her, many of the employees of Dehradun ITI settled here. We have been living here for decades, and now we are asked to leave this place, even though the government has nothing to prove this is their property,” Bhatia said.
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