WITH A sprawling industrial area on one side and high-rises on the other, residents of the twin villages of Khairane-Bonkode in Navi Mumbai seem stuck in time. Not much remains of the villages which locals claim are over 200 years old, but residents continue to identify themselves as ‘villagers’, even as the neighbourhood has turned metropolitan.
“Both the villages probably had a population of not more than 2,000 persons. Today, the number has surged to about 30,000,” says Munawwar Patel, a resident of Khairane village. He says that though there are many who have migrated into the area, the ‘original residents’ have continued to remain rooted to their village.
The original occupants of the villages, he says, came from three communities — Konkani Muslims, Agris and Kolis — who lived in harmony. Local lore goes that the villages made their contribution to the Indian freedom struggle, but their efforts did not get documented and hence remain unrecognised.
Residents also claim that these two villages are the few in Navi Mumbai whose original inhabitants belong to the Muslim community.
“The land on which the buildings stand today used to be open fields, where the members of the Konkani and Agri community farmed. The Koli community was involved in fishing,” Patel says.
Villagers claim that land under rice cultivation, as well as other areas belonging to them, were eventually taken over by the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Limited (CIDCO) in 1972 to develop Navi Mumbai. “Our land was forcefully taken over. Many promises were made to us — that basic amenities would be brought to our village, including a hospital, an open ground, jobs, sewage facility. Most of the promises have not been fulfilled. For most villagers, their only source of income remains the rent from homes they managed to built from the inadequate compensation they had received then,” says a villager, not wishing to be named.