“This is no longer the city I once knew”. Evictions, the urban poor and the right to the city in millennial Delhi

Millennial Delhi is changing rapidly. Between 1990 and 2003, 51,461 houses were demolished in Delhi under “slum clearance” schemes. Between 2004 and 2007 alone, however, at least 45,000 homes were demolished, and since the beginning of 2007, eviction notices have been served on at least three other large settlements. Fewer than 25 per cent of the households evicted in this latter time period have received any alternative resettlement sites. These evictions represent a shift not just in degree but also in kind. 

What has this emergence of the judiciary into urban planning and government meant for the urban poor? This paper analyzes the dictums of verdicts on evictions in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India from 1985 to 2006. Using these judgments, it explores the “misrecognition” of the poor that became dramatically apparent in the early 1990s and that underlies and justifies evictions. This shift is then located in the larger political, economic and aesthetic transformations that are re-configuring the politics of public interest in Indian cities.

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