It is hard to express in words how sick I felt when I heard that the community of Maninagar, about which I’ve written twice before, was once again demolished by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. This after they had made empty promises to find homes for these formerly nomadic people who have a legal right to government provided housing.
Below I’ve pasted a letter from a student organization who will be conducting a fast on behalf of the residents of Maninagar, but first please watch this brief slideshow of pictures I took just a few months ago. Nothing is left of the meager shelters documented in these photos …
UPDATE: If the embedded slideshow doesn’t work, click here.
Letter from Sambhav:
We (Sambhav) are observing a fast for 24 hours to oppose the atrocities done by the Police and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in Maninagar. The details of the same have been mentioned in the message below. I request you to froward this message to your friends and, if possible, post it on your blogs and websites. Kindly let us know if you would like to be a part of it by mailing us at sambhav.
This message will be submitted to different authorities in the form of a petition after the completion of the fast. We will also send a copy of this message to the Municipal Commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation by tomorrow morning.
Sambhav, a voluntary organization, has been working towards securing the right to a dignified life for people belonging to Denotified Tribes, particularly focusing on those living in Maninagar, Ahmedabad. These people have been rendered homeless by the demolitions conducted by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. These demolitions, which have been done more than 12 times during the past 10 years, are done under the pretext of using the so-acquired land for “developmental activities”.
To protest against the brutality and inhumane behavior of the AMC and Police, people went on a “peaceful hunger strike” on March 22, 2006 for one day under the leadership of Dr. Ganesh Devy. The aim of this strike was to sensitize the Corporation Authorities about the problems which these people are facing due to the demolitions. Due to this strike, Mr. Anil Mukim, the then Municipal Commissioner and Mr. Sacha, the then Deputy Municipal Commissioner promised to provide alternative land to 112 families. However, till date, these promises remain unfulfilled. Along with this, a “number of applications” were written to the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner of the AMC to help these people settle at some permanent place but these too remain unanswered.
The insensitivity of the police and the administration and the absolute emptiness of all the promises made by them was brought into glaring light by the recent shocking incidents which took place on the 7th and 9th of June,2007 . On the 7th, the AMC visited Maninagar yet again to carry another round of demolitions. As a result, the entire population of the region, which largely consists of children and women, was left without a place to hide from the scorching afternoon sun. With the mercury rising steadily, these people have been left at the mercy of nature, with no shelter anywhere. As the people were coming to terms with this demolition, violence and brutality of an unprecedented nature was witnessed in the area on the 9th June. Whatever little belongings these people had were confiscated by the Municipality. A large number of women were brutally beaten and those who tried to resist were locked up in jail for more than 24 hours. Their rations and even the food which was being cooked were thrown away. Whatever was not thrown was taken away, thus depriving the families of food and other necessities. Women, with infants who were in need of nursing, were refused the permission to carry the infants with them to jail. One of the women, who had recently undergone a surgery, was refused medicines in jail and was kept in a room with no ventilation, even while she pleaded to be allowed near a fan. The policemen beat the women again in jail and even though they were released later due to the intervention of other organizations that were aware of this cause, their belongings still remain unreturned.
To express our anguish at these happenings and to mark our solidarity with the people of Maninagar, we have decided to observe a 24-hour fast beginning on the morning of the 14th June, 2007. Since we would not want to disturb the peace of the city, we have decided to observe this fast from wherever we are without gathering at any one place. This will begin tomorrow at six am in the morning. Those of us who are on fast will be allowed to drink only water. You too can be a part of our struggle and contribute in your own way; you are welcome to observe this fast along with us, giving the people of Maninagar, the much needed strength of belongingness and unity. Please do get back to us with your ideas and your inputs. We once again appeal to you to join in this moment of anguish and observe a day’s fast with us.