What Can You Do to Stop Forced Evictions and Seek Justice?

1. Conduct an 'Eviction Impact Assessment'

Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) has developed an 'eviction impact assessment tool'that builds on the requirement in the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement for 'eviction impact assessments' to be conducted prior to the finalization and sanction of any project. HLRN has developed the modalities for conducting such 'eviction impact assessments.'

The HLRN tool could be used as a mechanism to prevent evictions, and in cases where evictions have already taken place, to ensure just and adequate restitution, rehabilitation and compensation. The tool aims to assess both material (for example loss of property and household items) and non-material (for example loss of education and healthcare) costs / losses incurred during a forced eviction. The tool can be adapted to the local situation and can be used to determine the real impacts of an eviction on individuals, families, the community and society. The findings could be used for advocacy with the government, to determine compensation and to prevent evictions, and could also be used in court to support any litigation related to the eviction.

2. File a Writ Petition / Public Interest Litigation

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is a petition that can be filled by any member of the public for any matter of public interest, for redress of public wrong or injury. In cases related to forced evictions, any affected person may approach a lawyer to submit a petition in state high courts or lower courts for any injury caused as a result of such evictions.

A Writ Petition may be fi led by an aggrieved person(s) to seek legal remedies for violation of fundamental rights. According to the Constitution of India, the petition can be filled under Article 226 before a High Court or under Article 32 before the Supreme Court of India.

Steps to be taken for filing a Writ Petition / PIL :

3. Document the Eviction and Resulting Violations of Human Rights

4. Issue Urgent Actions / Organize Communication Campaigns

5. Organize Public Events

a) Organize public hearings/people's tribunals

A public hearing or people's tribunal could be organised at the evictionsite or at another strategic venue. Independent experts such as retiredjudges, lawyers, human rights activists, academics and other eminentpeople could be invited to be part of the jury of a public hearing /people's tribunal. During the event, affected persons could testify beforethe jury and recount the event and human rights violations involved.The testimonies could highlight the differential impacts of the evictionon women, children, older persons, minorities, persons with disabilitiesand others. After the presentation of testimonies, the jury could be calledupon to issue a statement. Once the final jury statement is released, thecommunity could use it for advocacy purposes with relevant governmentauthorities, courts and independent human rights institutions, and alsodisseminate it to the media.

Such events are useful in generating awareness on human rightsviolations related to forced evictions; in documenting facts throughtestimonies from affected persons; in obtaining independent opinionsand recommendations of experts; and in creating pressure on the stateto take preventive and remedial action.

b) Organize a rally or event at a government office/public location

The affected community, in collaboration with human rights organizationsand activists, could organize a public rally or an event / action outsidethe office of the responsible government official/s or at a public location.Participants could hold banners or placards highlighting the major issuesrelated to the forced eviction and their demands. The media could beinvited to the event. During or after the event, the affected communityand its support organizations could submit a letter to the governmentstating violations of laws and human rights, and their demands.

c) Organize temporary road blocks

An effective and simple strategy to generate public awareness on the issue is to block traffic at a particular junction or road for a few minutes. During this time, fliers or pamphlets on the eviction and its impacts couldbe distributed to the public, including those in vehicles. This would helpspread information on the eviction and related human rights violations,and could be used to create indirect pressure on the government to meetdemands of affected persons.

d) Observe a local or national (if possible) day of protest

Human rights organizations and activists could organize solidarity events– locally or nationally – to generate support for the affected communityand to raise media awareness. A specific day could be selected forthe solidarity action and information on the event could be publicized in advance. During the day of action, members of the public could beurged to carry placards or wear badges or sign letters to express theirsupport for the affected community, to demonstrate their resistance, andto register their dissent over government action and / or inaction.

e) Organize street plays and music events

These could be held at sites where communities face eviction threats aswell as in schools, colleges and public spaces, to spread awareness onthe human right to adequate housing as well as on human rights violationsresulting from a forced eviction. The street plays could link the right tolife with other human rights and demonstrate adverse effects of forcedevictions and involuntary displacement on the human rights to adequatehousing, work / livelihood, education, health, environment, food, water,and security of the person and home. Music, including songs in locallanguages, could also be used to spread awareness on human rightsviolations and the need to prevent forced evictions.

6. File a 'Right to Information' Application to Seek Information on the Eviction and Resettlement Process

Under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 any Indian citizen can request information from a government office, department or official. The Act mandates the timely provision of information to all citizens.

The Act empowers applicant citizens to: The RTI Act prescribes the following steps to seek public information:
In cases of forced evictions / demolitions, the relevant government officials and departments could be asked for information regarding: