“Yahi hai Kathputli Colony; yahin atyaachar hota hai,” screamed a man as officials of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), accompanied by several policemen, went house to house on Monday, asking residents to sign a slip saying they were ready to vacate their homes and shift to a transit camp at Anand Parbat.
The slum, home to nearly 3,500 puppeteers, magicians, singers and musicians, was up in arms against what they called another attempt to take away land from them, and “forcefully” evict them from their homes.
The protests prompted PWD Minister Satyendar Jain to come to the spot and instruct officials not to use force. Not all residents were unhappy though — some said they were keen to get away from the “filth”.
WATCH | Kathputli Colony Being Demolished
Kathputli Colony at Shadipur is the first slum taken up for in-situ redevelopment. A private firm will create temporary housing for 2,800 families in the transit camp and, in two years, apartment complexes will come up at the colony for residents to shift back into. A total of 527 families moved to Anand Parbat in 2014.
But many residents said they would not shift till they got an “official stamp” from the court.
Sunita’s husband Ram Niwas was out on duty when officials entered her home and allegedly asked her to sign the slip. Her son, 10-year-old Arun, said, “My mother is a mental patient and my father wasn’t home. When they asked her to sign, she was reluctant but she relented. How can we leave this place?”
Prakash Bhatt, another resident, said, “I have travelled to Spain, Portugal and Mexico representing my country as a musician and a puppeteer. We made our country proud but we are being made to face such an injustice.”
But Banarasi Devi, who was among those who had earlier shifted to the camp, said it was far better. “Only those who engage in illegal activities don’t want to shift because the transit camp is next to a police station,” she said.
Researchers from the Centre for Policy Research and AAP Jhuggi Jhopdi Cell secretary Sundeep Narwani said there are legal loopholes in the contract drawn up to shift the residents.
But DDA principal commissioner J P Aggarwal said, “Until everyone is shifted, development work cannot begin. There is no arbitrariness in the contract… Police are there to maintain law and order, with clear instructions that they will not indulge in any violence.”