Evicted from their homes and forced to spend night in open as locals didn’t allowed them to take refuge in temple, six Dalit families of Palampur in Kangra district finally got relief from Himachal Pradesh High Court.

The court has stayed its previous order in which it directed the Divisional Forest Officer, Palampur to remove illegal establishments on the forest land.

The Forest department has been directed to stop the eviction drive with the immediate effect until the next hearing.

The residents claim that they are poor and landless people, who were dependent on forest land for livelihood and should be allowed to stay and occupy the land under the provisions of Forest Rights Act.

“We are living on this place from the past 50 years. We are landless people as we don’t have our own land. They came and ousted us out of our homes and started dismantling our houses,” said Rumlo Devi, resident of Rodi village, Palampur.

She said since they belong to dalits community, the residents of the colony, who belong to upper caste, didn’t allow us to enter the temple when the officials removed our houses.

“We along with our children are forced to spend the nights under the sky in spine chilling cold,” she said.

“We don’t have roofs on our heads and our power and water connections are disconnected at a time when the exams of our children are scheduled to begin,” said another resident.

According to the sources, these poor people are dependent on the forest for their livelihood and settled at the place during 1950s.

“These people are the eligible claimants for the Forest Rights Act, 2006. On 25 February 2018, gram panchayatKhalet will form a committee to discuss their rights under the Act and has invited the eligible claims over this issue,” said AkshayJasrotiya, a social activist who helped the families in filing petition in the court.

In the petition, Jasrotiya said, the families have alleged that the residents neighbouring colony had filed a case in the court against them, alleging they had encroached on government land and are creating nuisance in the area.

“They had alleged that these Dalit families are very rich and influential parties,” he said.