Day after residents of Sathyavani Muthu Nagar slum in Chennai stood neck-deep in sewage water for hours to oppose an eviction drive, the protest continued on Thursday, with political parties CPI(M), Makkal Needhi Maiam and VCK, and filmmaker Pa. Ranjith speaking out in support of the slum dwellers.
The Sathyavani Muthu Nagar slum is located on the banks of Cooum river near Island Ground in Chennai. The residents were asked to evacuate in December last year for the Cooum river restoration project. While some families moved out, many stayed put.
On Wednesday, when public welfare department staff, Chennai Municipal Corporation officials and the police reached the area and asked residents to move out, they refused to budge. The officials bulldozed several houses in and warned people of legal action. The residents then went on a hunger strike, entered the Cooum river, and stayed in the neck-deep water for hours, until the authorities halted the eviction drive and left. The video of close to a dozen men and women standing in the sewage water was circulated across social media.
On Thursday, CPI(M) and VCK members and other Dalit activists joined the residents’ protest, demanding that the government withdraw the eviction order.
கூவம் நதி, தீவுத்திடல் அருகேயுள்ள காந்தி நகர், இந்திரா நகர், சத்தியவாணி முத்து நகர் பகுதிகளில் வசிக்கும் உழைப்பாளி மக்களை வெளியேற்றும் அராஜகத்தை அரசு இன்றும் தொடர்கிறது. காவல்துறை அடக்குமுறைக்கு எதிராக களத்தில் மார்க்சிஸ்ட் கட்சி தோழர்கள்.@tncpim | @cpmkanagaraj | @gselva158 pic.twitter.com/kNcFVs26xi
— CPIM Tamilnadu (@tncpim) December 10, 2020
Tamil film director and activist Pa. Ranjith visited Deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam Thursday and requested him to consider the slum-dwellers’ plea.
Within a few hours, however, Ranjith took to Twitter to slam Pannerselvam, alleging that he promised to consider the request but has now ordered the eviction to go ahead. “Wake up Chennai slum residents, this government is against us,” he tweeted.
வீடு இழந்து, கல்வி தடைப்பட்டு, வேலைவாய்ப்பினை இழந்து அல்லல் படும் சென்னை குடிசைவாழ் மக்களின் மிக நியாயமான கோரிக்கையான சென்னை வட்டாரத்திற்குள்ளாகவே மாற்று வீடு கோரிக்கையாவது நிறைவேற்றுங்கள்? உங்கள் அரசால் துரத்தப்படுவது வெரும் மக்கள் மட்டும் அல்ல வாக்குகளையும் தான். pic.twitter.com/VCnwBFvlYN
— pa.ranjith (@beemji) December 9, 2020
Actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam leader Kamal Haasan also took to Twitter and questioned the government, asking if “evicting the native people out of the city is a welfare scheme”.
Sathyavani Muthu Nagar was one of the city’s largest slums, holding more than 2,000 families. Following the eviction notice by the government authorities last year, almost 70 per cent of the families moved to the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board Tenaments in Perumbakkam, 30 km from the heart of the city. The other families stayed put, claiming their livelihood and the education of their children would be affected if they moved to the faraway place.
The eviction process had to be halted last December in the face of resident’s protests and the intervention of parties like the CPI(M) and the VCK.
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