Despite heavy rains, people in the Kathputli colony, Delhi, staged a unique protest on January 26, which they called Republic of Resistance, to oppose the authorities’ attempts to forcibly evict them from the spot where puppeteers, magician, acrobats, dancers, singers and other street artistes have been living for decades as a community. The government wants to “redevelop” the colony as part of its slum rehabilitation scheme without due consultation with the people, argues Delhi Solidarity Group:
Once again Kathputli Colony is making headlines for their righteous claims to land and livelihood at the place where they have lived for generations. They have always made the country and its citizen feel proud for various reasons. Having represented India in different countries, the artists are in hope of dignified life without any more betrayal. Their ordeal started in 2009 when their colony was notified for in-situ slum redevelopment under the Rajiv Awas Yojna. Since then the people were kept in dark about the whole plan of re-development of the Kathputli Colony, and it is evident from the resisting voices of the people even after seven years of agreement between Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Raheja Builders Pvt. Ltd. In 2014.
DDA attempted to shift the people to the transit camp made in Anand Parbat approximately 2 km away from the Kathputli Colony. Since then, they have braved many attempts of illegal demolitions of their houses and forced dislocation to the ill-equipped transit camp. Today, they stand divided into different groups; families spread over the original basti and transit camp; running from pillar to post for justice; facing harassment from DDA officials and Delhi Police, Para-military forces and so on.
This time again from December 18, 2016, DDA started their drive of forceful eviction with heavy deployment of police and para-military forces, and forcing them to sign the demolition slip and give consent and further shift in the transit camp so as to give away the total land to builder for ‘in-situ redevelopment’ of the colony. People have not been heard even for once collectively. Never the whole plan has been discussed by DDA officials in any public meeting called officially by DDA.
Unaware of the agreement and its illegalities, people started resisting strongly looking at the injustices meted out to the families which have been shifted to the transit camp, keeping them in dark. The surveys have been done in a loose manner which actually excluded a lot of families and divided them on various issues of legalities.
Looking at the support from civil societies, people started rising up to the authorities and raised questions for clarification which made DDA accept their mistake and change their agreement twice which clearly suggests their unpreparedness and lack of seriousness towards the benefit of people. It shows their hurriedness to handover the land to the builder and that too without any assurance to the people of Kathputli Colony. The difference in the surveys done by different authorities regarding the total number of families and people’s claims is also important and needs urgent attention. This clearly suggests for a complete re-survey with much needed transparency and required authenticity.
In the midst of heavy police deployment, many leaders and civil society organisations, farmers’ unions, trade unions etc. extended their support and solidarity to people’s resistance in Kathputli Colony. Among them are Brinda Karat (Polit Bureau member of CPIM), Annie Raja (Gen. Secretary, National Federation of Indian Women), Anand Kumar (Swaraj Abhiyan), Medha Patkar (National Alliance of People’s Movements) and many others. They have continuously supported people’s resistance against the forceful eviction and signing of demolition slips, heavy police deployment, demolition of individual houses, public infrastructure and various other violations.
Since last one month, people have resisted on many issues in the colony and with all their efforts, they have stood high against the injustice meted out to them. They have made representation to NHRC, met Delhi Police Commissioner; have also sent complaints to Police Authorities and Home Ministry. Also, officials from Delhi Commission of Women have visited the Kathputli Colony and have talked with the women of the colony about the issues and difficulties faced by them since the insensitive drive started by the DDA for shifting the families to the transit camp and demolition of individual households and public infrastructure. People have protested in front of DUSIB office against alleged inconvenience and violations happening in the Kathputli colony.
People are constantly asserting their rights of democratic, transparent participation in the planning and execution of the redevelopment plan. Resisting for a transparent re-survey and a public hearing on the whole plan of redevelopment of Kathputli colony with their assertion of rightful demands and objections, they have continued public meeting everyday in the Kathputli Colony where people share their issues and show unity and strength against the undemocratic highhandedness of DDA and police officials. Home of the artists, puppeteers, magician, acrobats, dancers, singers and various other talented people have united their voices of resistance through their skills, they are famous for.
On the occasion of the Republic Day, they celebrated the Republic of Resistance where people shared their struggle through cultural events. The unity of various communities living in Kathputli Colony and their resistance against injustices was celebrated.
Delhi Solidarity Group, on the behalf of communities of Kathputli Colony, invited all those who cared for the plight of the Kathputli colony people for their active support/solidarity/participation during the cultural evening on 26th January, 2017, where people of the colony shared the injustices happening with them and their struggle against the non-transparent systemic attempt of eviction. People sang sings, did performances and expressed through other arts to showcase their resistance.