On Monday around 9 am, as residents of Saraniyavaas near Indira Bridge were doing their morning chores, they saw police personnel installing a barricade in front of their settlement’s main entrance, connecting to the airport road in Hansol area. A constable climbed and stood on the newly built wall and scanned the dilapidated huts.
For the next three hours, the residents watched as police secured the area for the roadshow of US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Scores of supporters from different parts of the city lined up to watch as Trump later said in his speech at the Motera stadium, “The hundreds and thousands of citizens who come out and line the streets in a stunning display of Indian culture and kindness.”
Around 1 pm, as a few children from the shanties climbed up on the barricade and roofs of houses, waving American flags made of paper, hooters started blaring from the pilot vehicles of the Trump cavalcade, announcing the arrival of the “Beast”, the swanky black limousine with military grade armour, the official vehicle of the POTUS, in which Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and Modi were seated. As the residents of the slum struggled to get a glimpse, the motorcade was gone, crossing the newly built wall in just about 10 seconds.
Saraniyavaas has been in the spotlight since this paper reported how the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) began building a wall between the road and the slum which fell on the route of the roadshow, reportedly to cover the slum. The AMC claimed that the wall of four feet height was being built in the place of a broken wall and was not meant to hide the slum.
“We hoped that our PM and the US President will do a slow-paced roadshow, where they would greet people standing from the roof-top of their vehicle. However, it was all over before we even realised. I was standing inches away from the barricade and I think I saw the American President inside the vehicle but I am not sure,” said Kanjibhai Saraniya, a 58-year-old resident.
For the past 10 days, a police control room van has been stationed at the exit point of the slum even as contractual workers from AMC have been working at electrifying speed to erect the wall. Journalists were also frequenting the spot often as the people found themselves in an unexpected pickle of politics.
“I am happy that the event is over and we can go back to our lives. For the past 10 days, we have been asked about the wall and the Trump event and we are at peace now. We hope that the media and administration will now focus on other things that the people of Saraniyavaas are directly affected by such as irregular supply of water and harassment meted out by authorities in the name of anti-encroachment. The people of our slum are employed as daily wage labourers, vegetable sellers and autorickshaw drivers but no work has been done for the past one week,” said a sexagenarian resident of the slum who did not wish to be named.
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