A day after thousands were rendered homeless when police, working with the state authorities, demolished the shanties at Mandala in Mankhurd, the evicted people staged a protest Wednesday demanding houses for them.
The protesters claimed that nearly 4,000 personnel, including those from the Maharashtra Metropolitan Regional Development Authority, had arrived with five trucks and two bulldozers without any prior notice. At a press conference, they said the structures were recently re-built by former occupants of these shanties who were evicted after a demolition drive in 2005.
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“The arrested people were stuffed inside six police vans. We were ready to go peacefully but they manhandled us. They did not even spare women, they too were beaten up,” said Shriram Bharadwaj, one of the protesters.
He said the police made a false claim there was no lathicharge in the area. “We have video evidence and also the bills of hospitals where the injured were taken to,” he said.
On May 26, the evicted people had launched the Awas Haq Satyagraha, under the purview of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan spearheaded by activist Medha Patkar for rehabilitation of people affected by eviction drives across the country.
The protesters claimed that Mandala was earlier supported to be the pilot project under the Rajiv Awas Yojana. The state-sponsored scheme was launched by the previous Congress government after over 90,000 houses were razed in the area. However, the government then denied compensation pointing out that the survey of each home was not feasible, since there were no proper structures. “The evictees have been struggling for compensation since. No measures were taken for over a decade, after which the new government scrapped the Rajiv Awas Yojana and bought in the ‘Housing For All’,” said one of the protesters.
They, however, claim that they had built proper structures. The slum-dwellers now plan to continue with the “satyagragha” and hold “bigger rallies”.