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We are carrying our children’s books. I want them to keep on studying: Shakurbasti residents

On December 12, their hutment was among the 500 bulldozed by the Railways in Shakurbasti in Delhi.

Written by Sarah Hafeez |
Updated: December 27, 2015 9:31:12 am

Shamima, 39; Md Alam, 43 (Delhi)

Displaced in the shakurbasti demolition

For the past one week, Shamima and Alam have been staying inside a makeshift tent. On December 12, their hutment was among the 500 bulldozed by the Railways in Shakurbasti in Delhi, leaving hundreds of families homeless and sparking off a controversy following the death of a child.

The couple say this is not the first time they have been uprooted from Shakurbasti, an “illegal” colony of 1,200 shanties in northwest Delhi that sits on land owned by the Railways. “The ministry demolished our homes twice earlier, the last time in 2008. But we settled here again. We will never move from Shakurbasti,” says Alam, a rickshaw-puller who moved to the national capital from Darbhanga, Bihar, over 20 years ago.

So when the demolition team arrived the cold December day, too, they knew exactly the handful of things they would need to settle back down, probably at the same place:

Their children

“Bachcha le jayenge aur ka?” says a bemused Shamima, a mother of eight children — the youngest is 3, the oldest 19 — when asked what they carried with them.

“We gathered our children and ran away when we heard the sound of the bulldozers and people shouting. We will take our eight children and settle wherever we are granted a little bit of land to set up our jhuggi,” she says. Government officials have been visiting and advising Shakurbasti residents to lie low for a few months till winter dissolves and till they come up with a new place to relocate the shanties.

The cycle rickshaw

“That is my rozgaar (source of income),” says Alam, pointing to a blue cycle rickshaw tied to a tree a few feet away from their tarpaulin tent. “Wherever I go from here, I will take my rickshaw and licence,” he says. Alam earns between Rs 200 and 400 a day, depending on his “naseeb (luck)”.

Utensils and clothes

“We need to cook and eat. So we took with us the few utensils we have,” says Shamima, as she lights some plastic and wood to use as fuel for cooking a simple meal of rice and daal.

They have two pairs of clothes each for all the members of the family. “Each of us was wearing a pair already, the other we just stuffed in a bag,” she adds.

Children’s books

Of their eight children, 12-year-old Roshni and 10-year-old Khurshida go to the nearby Sarvodya Kendra school “and are passionate about studying”, says Shamima. “I never forget to carry my children’s school books and papers. I want them to continue studying,” she says. The eldest son works as an electrician while the others “are too small or naughty”.

Identity cards

The couple keep their ration cards and Aadhar cards carefully wrapped in a creased bread packet. They need the papers even to get the blankets, food and tarpaulin sheets being distributed to those displaced by the demolition.

Besides, says Alam, the identity proofs come handy when “we are branded illegal Bangladeshi immigrants”. “We have all the required cards. The local politicians got them made for us. Wherever we go from here, we will be asked for our cards. Pehchaan hi sab kuchh hai (Identity is everything).”

1,000 hectares of Railway land is encroached across the country. Of this, 60 hectares are encroached in Delhi alone, where 47,000 jhuggis are holding up Rs 260-cr projects

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