Report by Maitri Bheda, 19
I wonder how I would feel if my home, the house I had stayed in all my life, was destroyed before my eyes? If my family was brutally shoved out of their home by the police one day? Just because the state and the builders wanted to build high rises and malls and airports?
This is what happened to the people in Ganesh Krupa Society in Mumbai’s Khar East Golibar area.
I visited the area recently. But before I proceed, here is a brief backgrounder on the situation in Golibar:
Golibar’s Ganesh Krupa Society was formed in 1994 and in 1996, it was declared as a slum for rehabilitation purpose. The residents, for their rehabilitation purpose signed an agreement with the real estate company Madhu Constructions in 2004. However Madhu Constructions, without the knowledge of Golibar residents, got into an agreement with Shivalik Constructions – a real estate company which has several court cases pending against them. Residents of the area were asked to leave their houses by the builders one fine day – just like that. Despite the fact that the required 70 per cent of signatures of residents had not been acquired. The people filed an RTI (Right To Information) case and found out that the company had forged the consent signatures!
This list of consent signatures include one (in English) of an illiterate woman who had died in 2005!
The residents took the builders to court. And on February 2nd, the Mumbai High Court said that the persons responsible for the fraud and irregularities in the slum rehabilitation process should be arrested within 15 days.
Time for celebrations, right? You would think that when you walk down the streets of Golibar, you will see people happily staying in their chawls and the rehabilitation process would be going on peacefully with another builder. No, this is not the scene you will be seeing. In fact all you will find is aggressive police people posted allover, people from the collector’s office in yellow helmets.
People who have tried defending their homes were pulled mercilessly, women and children were brutally manhandled. And this was done by none other than our police force. The same policemen who were ordered to investigate against the builders were seen working with them. The same police who so stubbornly had refused to lodge an FIR against the builders when the forged signatures were found out, till the court ordered them to do so.
Golibar residents have been told to stay in a transit camp. However not only is the building under construction and also under litigation as an illegal structure, it is also in a bad shape. the living conditions are really bad.
This area had 323 homes. Now it is down to almost 100. Since the demolitions began, people here have ben risking their jobs to stand guard at the entrances to their Society, to resist the demolition team that threatened to come everyday. The atmosphere here is very tense. People here are living in fear… thinking will it be my house this time?
The builders have appointed their own men who at regular intervals harrass the people. This is led to the death of one young man who was at forefront of the struggle to save homes.
The sad thing is this issue has hardly been covered by the media.
I decided to visit the place as I had heard that the children of the area were documenting what’s happening to their homes and their lives. They had been given cameras by documentary filmamaker Faiza Khan to capture what was going on.
I saw several children walking around with cameras in their hands. I met Vrushali, an eleven year old girl who said, “I don’t want these uncles to break my home.” She had a friend with her who said “I do not want to be separated from my friends. There are many transit camps and we will all be sent to different ones.”
“I hate the transit camps. I went there with my parents and it was very dirty. There was dirty water everywhere. We saw some people who have been living there for five years. They were also told they will be given houses later but they have not been given anything yet. So they still live there.”
I also met 13 year old Vinayak Yadav who was roaming around in his school uniform with a camera in his hand. “I am filming these people,” he smiled. Is your house going to be broken today? I asked. “It has already been broken. They hammered on the door first. We had locked ourselves in – all my family. My small sister, mother and father, my grandmother. We did not open. They broke open the door. They hauled us out brutally. We were hurt and bleeding. They threw out all our stuff.”
Where is he staying now? “We cleared the rubble and stay out in the open. We cannot cook – people who still have their homes cook for us.” The kids stay the nights sleeping in the middle of all the rubble, doing their homework in all this confusion and then going to school again the next day. Vinayak makes sure he attends school every day. “School is important for people like us. I want to grow up and be an officer like them, so that no one dares to destroy my house like this ever again.”
When I first approached the area, I was shocked to see the state of the houses. It was like someone had bombed the place. There was rubble and debris all around, and the outer shells of what used to be people’s homes. Some homes still remained. The day I arrived the civic authorities were going to demolish some more. I came across many old people and children sitting outside their broken homes, amidst the rubble.
There were lots and lots of police people. On many of the broken walls I could see the graffiti of a clenched fist, and slogans like “You want to build your airports and malls on the rubble of poor people’s homes.”
Many people were pleading with or shouting at the police and the people with bulldozers, asking them to not break their homes.
People had shut themselves in their houses as a mark of protest against the demolition. They were refusing to leave their houses. But the police were breaking the doors, hauling people, including women and kids out brutally, sometimes by their hair. They were being beaten up for resisting the breaking of their homes and taken away in police vans.
The people of Golibar have set up a website – www. khareastandolan.wordpress.com. On the site, I read that this is what the people of the area have to say:
“Our home is a slum, and like slum colonies across the city, will eventually be demolished to make way for buildings. We are not against redevelopment. Only, we insist it be just and legal. We insist on people’s participation in redevelopment. Our houses are small, beautiful and clean. Were, until two weeks ago. Today we live in a Society ravaged by the demolition team that comes every day. The symbols of resistance are on every unbroken wall, and in every one of us – even our children – is the true spirit of Mumbai. Because we are Mumbaikars. We settled this land when it was a marshland. We are the working-classes – we run small businesses and render the services that keep this city moving, ever alive.”
You can read more about Golibar here: