Bulldozed and Homeless: Residents continue their dharna in Mumbai

MUMBAI – Demonstration by residents of Bhim Chhaya has been continued today on 5th day, demanding land-rights and implementation of Rajiv Awas Yojna.

The ‘development’ drive of Government of Maharashtra has taken verve of one more slum. This time authorities have bulldozed over 1000 homes of Bhim Chhaya, a predominantly Dalit basti in Vikhroli East.  

Bhim Chhaya was one of the 19 settlements that was to be declared a slum as per the Government Resolution, after Medha Patkar's fast in Golibar in May. Once declared a slum, they would have been eligible for housing under the Rajiv Awas Yojna, irrespective of when they settled there. 

But, shockingly, dwellers of Bhim Chhaya, with an approximate population of three thousand plus, were issued the notice by authorities on 5 Nov. asking them to vacate the entire land by 16 Nov.  

As people and concerned organizations were busy questioning the issuance of notice in contradiction with own Government Resolution, eight bulldozers rolled into the slum and started the demolition drive on 16th Nov. Parts of slum were set on fire and many people could not even salvage their belongings.

Uday Bhai, a resident of Bhim Chhaya slum says, “People have been living here since 1995, by the year 2000 most of us were issued the election ID cards and ration cards by respective authorities.  After Medhaji’s resistance in last May, we were assured housing under Rajiv Awas Yojna. But, in utterly shocking move, Government has spoiled our lives.”

“We approached several people and authorities with the reference to GR; we appealed Chief Minister too, but failed to get any response. Government should understand that until Rajiv Awas scheme is not implemented, the slums cannot be cleared from Mumbai.” he added.

“Street dwellers’ life is better than us, as court has directed authorities to accommodate them in municipal lands. We don’t have, even that fortune” he grieved.   

The residents of Bhim Chhaya are on a dharna from last five days outside their bulldozed shelters. Adding insult to the injury, demonstrators had to face the wrath of Police on November 19. Police attack on the protestors fractured the hands of two children and several people were arrested. Subsequently, residents in thousand numbers rushed to police station demanding arrest of all, as the life in jail is better than present.

Children and women are worse effected by the drive, as they have no shelter, no means to prepare the food and thus discontinuing the education.

Sharing the experience of her visit, Faiza Khan, an activist says, “I met a woman who sells garlic near the station to feed her four little kids and ailing husband, another who washes dishes in five houses to support her family. Over the last one year, the PDS shop has been refusing to give them their ration; instead it has been cancelling their ration cards, asking them for proof by way of electricity bills.” 

Speaking to newzfirst, Madhuri Vairath, a prominent social activist of NAPM, who has been engaged in this struggle of slum residents said, “Government of Maharashtra has betrayed the people by violating its own resolution. Government should stop the drama and restore the houses for these people.”  

“We will continue to fight until we get the justice, until we get land rights (pattas) and until Rajiv Awas Yojna is implemented. We have decided not to take part in forthcoming elections” asserted Uday Bhai.

It has been a morale-booster for the residents of Bhim Chhaya to see people from other slums-Ambujwadi, Golibar, Sion Koliwada, coming to support them.

The police claim that this land has been transferred to forest department, on other hand there are other buildings, including one built three months ago by the MNS that stand on the same plot. 

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