The dwellers of the Kathputli colony pressurized for evictions. Massive armed police deployed with bulldozers surrounding the colony. Cops have already barricaded the area and are planning to disconnect electricity.
Souma Mukherjee, Sr.Correspondent
Kathputli colony, the small cultural hub of Delhi NCR is facing immense trouble with the redevelopment of the locality. In 2010, Government of Delhi initiated the redevelopment project of the colony on public-private partnership model. The contract was granted to Raheja Developers. As per the plan, 2800 flats were to be built in 10-storey buildings on the 5.2 hectare and a portion of the land was to be given to the developer to construct its own commercial and residential buildings.
Currently, the negotiations are on with Delhi Development Authority, Delhi Government and Raheja Builders on site. But why such deployment of armed forces is the question? 500 families have already been moved to a location which lack basic amenities. The artists have a dilemma of the relocation to the transit camp. As reported, there have been no such movements of the forces as of now, yet the pressure is building on the slum dwellers. The local DCP had a meeting with some of the local leader asking them to accept the ‘parchi’ and move to the transit camp. The residents are approaching a senior lawyer Ms Nitya to request honourable Delhi High Court to intervene in this matter and put a stay order on this demolition.
Shivani Chaudhry, Executive Director, Housing and Land Rights Network shared, in regards to Kathputli Colony, DDA must not forcibly evict or relocate people without their free and prior informed consent. Under no conditions must force be used against residents. Due process must be followed at all stages. This includes adequate notice, full disclosure of information, and extensive consultation with all affected persons. The state should ensure that the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement are complied with. International human rights standards for ‘adequate housing’ must be implemented in the transit camp and in the alternative housing being built. Housing plans must be developed with peoples’ participation and consent. They must be given compensation for their losses and not made to pay beyond their financial means for new housing. As the community consists of artists and artisans, adequate space must be provided for their livelihood activities and storage of material. No resident should be rendered worse-off than before. DDA must adhere to definite timelines, ensure that people are not made to live in transit accommodation indefinitely, guarantee that all families receive alternative housing, and protect the human rights of all residents.
Kathputli Colony has been a residential colony since 1950s; many proposals were floated in the past to regularise the colony. The electricity department, water board and many other government agencies; meanwhile awarded many connections to the residents of these colonies. And finally this demolition! Amidst all the adventures happened so far where different political parties served their purposes, it is the residents who are finally losing the battle. Are they to be blamed? If not, who else. It is a battle between lackadaisical attitude of government agencies and the poor artists of Katputli who are also the crusaders of Indian art and culture. Pawan K Shrivastava a renowned independent filmmaker shares his concerns on this demolition and said, “Kathputli Colony is the home for street performers, if the demolition takes place we will lose one of the world’s largest communities of street performers”.
Shouldn’t the concerns be raised! Shouldn’t the unheard be heard this time! Shouldn’t the secluded be given the company this time! Being independently vocal, we appeal activists, philanthropist and artists to come together and stand by to save our cultural island.