Whose city? by Amit Singh on Whatsapp (ohotos https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipNF_m11Vy-wfvUguuTE9-_3Xzi3R3poGXaDFrgzxEOr2hwjGD2psID0OOD2_k6zcA?pli=1&key=NG1EN3B4algwaGtZbmRlMnRacDFqNlhlNF9TakRR)

Whose city is it anyway? Of real estate sharks like Hiranandani who have displaced so many people off the lands in Powai and deforested the area? Or of many workers who were living till this Wednesday in Jai Bhim Nagar, a slum surrounded by Hiranandani owned huge residential towers, and whose jhuggis and homes were demolished by the BMC under the directives of powers that rule Mumbai and Powai?

After their homes and memories were shattered on Thursday afternoon, many of them are forced to live now on the nearby roads. The footpath near the Powai plaza towards the Galleria shopping mall has been the most kind so far to give shelter to hundreds of people.

What a disaster that is unfolding around just a few kilometers away from our homes!

The poor kids are roaming around. The women with gloomy depressing faces are busy taking care of the stuff that they were able to save from the wrath of the police. A woman told me, “I was not able to save my tables and furniture, they were all destroyed in the demolition drive.” Another one said, “I had come from Kolkata to meet my relatives to see a doctor as I am suffering from blood cancer. Now, instead of visiting a hospital, I am helping my relatives to cope up with this misfortune.” The men are helping and trying to find water and food. Some NGOs have come up for help. Robin Hood Army has been distributing food for the last three days. People are queuing up to get the food their vans have brought. A man in 50s came forward to say hello in a pensive voice, “I have been living in Jai Bhim Nagar for the last 20 years. The land belongs to an adivasi woman Tarabai who left the place a long time ago. Now, Hiranandani has demolished our homes. The same Hiranandani whose buildings we constructed with our own hands.” That's the reality. The object that labor creates becomes alien (external) to him/her/they. The buildings, who after construction became slaves of the sharks, were laughing when he was saying these words . Asking whether he still works for Hiranandani, he continued, “They do not employ workers now. They subcontract the construction.” I knew exactly what he was going to speak as we have seen several construction workers even on IIT Bombay campus who work under a hierarchy of construction companies and several subcontractors, and many of them at present are receiving not more than Rs 12K per month in gross violation of so many laws. But hey, who cares! The questions related to toilets and drinking water angered many. None were made available. Fend for yourself!

But when I took the photo of the riot control vehicle, a police officer took my mobile phone and asked me to delete the photo. A nearby citizen got offended, offered solidarity and together we argued with police personnel that taking a photo is legal. We cited police acts but the danda of the police is stronger than any arguments. So I yielded as I was carrying my close to three years old buddy. The police personnel deleted that specific photo. I immediately sneaked away from there while the citizen in solidarity kept arguing with the police. I saluted him in my thoughts.

I had so many questions returning back to home. Why did the authorities wait for elections to get over? When will the Lok win over the Tantra? Till what time these three thousand odd people will remain on the footpath? Are they prepared to invite the much anticipated guest in the town – the rain? Can’t we raise our voices?

Amit, Mumbai, 8th June 2024, Evening

For background of the Stroy: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/police-and-bmc-officials-hit-by-slum-dwellers-in-powais-jai-bhim-nagar/articleshow/110775046.cms