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Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan
Houses Demolished Not the Spirit
Struggle for Hosuing Right Will Continue
(An update from the day of demolition to till date)
Mumbai | 10th July, 2015: On 30th June at Mandala-Indira nagar, Mankhurd village, Police bandobast started increasing as the day began outside Satyagrah site. They stopped everybody from entering into the land where Satyagarhis recently had built their houses. Public witnessing the scenario over there reported to have felt a curfew like situation. Close to thousand were inside the newly built Mandala and half of them were sitting under the Pandal. Around 10:15 am, people sitting under the Pandal could hear the grumble of JCBs and trucks entering in.
Six JCBs and 7-8 trucks were there as informed by those who were stopped outside. Police personnel kept on encompassing the Pandal as the demolition started. After some time, a local police inspector Mr. Hazare came to the Pandal who informed the Satyagrahis that the agitation should continue peacefully and that Pandal wouldn’t be demolished but their houses, also that there was no need to panic. It was heartbreaking for the people who were seeing their houses being demolished in front of their eyes for the third time! Some of them tried to rush to save their belongings but it was not their day, none was allowed. A woman started crying when she knew that she wouldn’t be allowed to even save a holy book kept in her Jhopdi.
Tehsildar, along with some senior police officials visited the Pandal after they heard the loud slogans being shouted out by the Satyagrahis present in the Pandal. The Tehsildar Mrs. S.K. Telure assured the Satyagrahis that she would organize a meeting with the Collector that day only and whatever be the decision had come out would be followed. When Shriram, who was leading the struggle at that time, requested that the Satyagrah should be allowed to continue, the Tehsildar then assured that it was possible provided he hand over her a request letter. The same was agreed by the all Satyagrahisas well. But what followed next proved a betrayal to Satyagrahis by the Tehsildar (in the past as well, when the Awas Haq Satyagrah was launched on May 26th, 2015, Mrs. Telure arrived Mandala and requested to withdraw the Satyagrah giving an assurance of getting back with a response from the Collector in two day but she remained unsuccessful in fulfilling her assurance). Shriram was called by some Police officials immediately after he finished his talk with the Tehsildar. He managed to go back to the Pandal and informed fellow Satyagrahis that he had sniffed a conspiracy by the Police to arrest key leaders of the Satyagrah including him. A Police Inspector, Shivaji Wade came running after him asking him to go back to the Police. Shriram did not go back saying that he would come after he get the photocopy of the request letter which he had sent to be done from a nearby shop and that should come back in a short while, so he should be given that much time. Mr. Wade returned to his colleagues and came back immediately in the Pandal announcing that everybody present in the Pandal would be arrested. The Satyagrahis protested arresting but later announced that it was possible and they would voluntarily get arrested. Since the Satyagrahis had themselves agreed to get voluntarily arrested it should have been done very peacefully but a strange haste in arresting the key leaders left everybody in shock. Mr. Wade ruthlessly tore the banner of the movement-Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan- which was supposed to symbolise the ideologies of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr BR Ambedkar. Police cracked down on Shriram, women standing near him protested that act which became the reason of chaos created then. Whoever protested complained to have been manhandled by the Police. A total of 16 MLCs are there of all those who succumbed to injuries due to Police manhandling on the day of demolition.
Presently the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. S.P. Nishandar has been investigating into complaints of Police manhandling on instruction from the Additional Commissioner of Police, Mr. Manoj Lohia. The higher officials of the police acted on it when the report of police manhandling came in print media. This also to be noted that the around 200 Satyagrahis were detained under section 149 of CrPC which deals with preventive detention for cognizable offences. As per the Senior Police Inspector who was the in charge at that time, the Satyagrahis were being held for the offence of encroachment. It must be noted that encroachment is not classified as a cognizable offence. When this was pointed out to the officials, it was first denied and when the relevant laws were shown to them, they had no answers for the same. All of them were released on the same day in the evening with a notice under section 149.
Mandala evictees held a big morcha before the Collector office on 6th July led by social activist Medha Patkar condemning the unjustified act of demolition.
In the dialogue with the Collector, Mr. Shekhar Channe, it was found that he was unaware of the ground reality. He was noted saying that “only 100 houses were built there (in Mandala)”. Had the Collector paid a visit to the Mandala to hear the plea of the Satyagrahis, who had been inviting him since the beginning of the Satyagrah, he would have came to know the actual number of houses built on the whole of approx. 13 acres of Mandala land. Sadly, that did not happen, he never visited Mandala! The Collector was shown black flags by Mandala evictees and by other slum dwellers from across the city of Mumbai who had joined them in solidarity on 6th July.
There was no prior notice given before the demolition, this surprise act of demolition had risked the life of thousands of people present over there. No announcement was heard before the eviction which would have allowed the people to save their belongings. This huge eviction and subsequent destruction of household goods kept in the houses caused heavy loss to the poor adding to their misery.
Such is the story at Mandala in the age of PM Modi’s claim of housing all till 2022! Those who demand housing right, faces detention, becomes the victim of red-tapism, manhandled by the police, treated like criminals and so on. Maharashtra administration was able to demolish the houses of the poor who had built their houses from the money they had saved after cutting on their daily requirements but have not been successful in breaking their spirit which they have held high and will continue to be remain so until they get housing right. The evictees of the Mandala are looking forward for an urgent meeting with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Devendra Fadnavis who has just returned from US and are expecting some fruitful dialogue.
Buttun Nissa Anwari Shriram Baddruzaman
Watch video: Tehsildar’s False Assurance-Awas Haq Satyagrah