The 2,000-strong crowd which gathered outside Bandra (West) station comprised largely of migrant workers employed in the construction industry and living in adjoining areas like Shastri Nagar.
The area is home to over 2,000 migrants, who, according to locals, hail primarily from Bihar, Bengal and UP. Majority of them are employed in building construction and carpentry and can be seen standing at the “labour naka” right at the entrance of the area that is home to slums abutting the Bandra (West) railway station. After Tuesday’s incident, the area was barricaded by the police for some time.
“These are hardworking people who wake up at 5 am and before 8 am, the entire area empties out,” said Suleman Shaikh, who stays in area No. 1 in Shastri Nagar.
Shastri Nagar, as per locals, is divided into three parts. “Area No. 1 starts from a mosque outside Bandra station right at the entrance of the area and goes on till Jai Bhim chawl inside,” said Jamil Mulla, a local. “This area is inhabited by locals mainly from the Muslim and Dalit communities.” “Further ahead, there are two other parts called ‘do’ number and ‘teen’ number, where majority of the migrants reside,” added Mulla.
Shaikh added, “Majority of them are from Bihar and Malda in West Bengal. One room has five-six people staying. Over time, floors are added to these tenements made from asbestos sheets and generally people from the same village are then called in to occupy them. They take turns cooking as most of the time they are out of the house.”
Those who cannot afford the tenements sleep on the skywalk right outside Bandra station. Of the people who had assembled for protesting, many also came from the Behrampada area in Bandra East. Shaikh said ever since the lockdown the migrants are given food by those from area
No. 1. “Some had left for their native places before the lockdown. However, we provide them with food packets so that they can sustain themselves during the lockdown,” Shaikh added.
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