Public Private Plundering: B’lore Municipality Steals Homes of Poor

1500 families were forcibly evicted by Bangalore Municipal Corporation acting hand in hand with a famously corrupt construction company. As our cities increasingly resemble war zones between the state and its people, a group of committed citizens have come together to stop this violence and injustice. Help our cities keep their dignity and Support the families of Ejipura in their struggle for justice. It is voices like yours that helped make the campaign. Put your name on this petition and demand Change.

Read below for a brief rundown of the atrocity….

A huge fence shields the scene of crime from public view. Behind the fence lies a flattened field of bulldozed rubble –  erstwhile homes of 1500 families crumbled together with pieces of meager possessions the people had accrued through years of hard work, sweat and blood. The families all belong to the designated Economically Weaker Sections (EWS). They are some of the most vulnerable individuals in metropolis of Bangalore – sewage workers, garbage collectors, housemaids, manual laborers etc – people employed by the city to keep essential services ticking as it made its millennial bid to transform into the country’s silicon valley. Keeping with the citizen’s inalienable right to shelter, the authorities themselves had allocated the land in Ejipura, Bangalore to the EWS families. 16 years later, the spurt in city’s real estate and a greasy builder were enough to convince the Municipal Corporation (BBMP) to orchestrate a bloody demolition drive through the neighborhood.

With one cheap trick after another, the BBMP and the famously corrupt construction company Maverick’s various tactics to get people to vacate Ejipura EWS had been gaining momentum since 2012. The corporation and its representatives began to issue promises of relocation and rehabilitation if the people agreed to move. When the people did not agree to their conditions, their water supply to the public toilets was cut off. The rentals on the houses were increased and goons were hired to threaten and scare away the community. But all through the devious tweaking, the people’s decision to hold on to their home’s only intensified and gathered into a movement.

On the 10th of January 2013, bulldozers turned up at their doorsteps accompanied by the city police. The families were taken by surprise. They had received no notice of the eviction.  They were asked to gather up what they could and vacate the premises at once. And on that morning, as most of Bangalore city went about its daily processes, Ejipura EWS erupted into a war. The beast of a state coming down on its own people. Bulldozers smashed into and leveled houses. The police roughed up and arrested all those who dared protest.

But the authorities had under-estimated the power of the people. The families stood together and offered resistance to the state’s machine.  NGOs, activists, concerned individuals across the city joined the voices of dissent and added to the people’s numbers. Protests and demonstrations raged in the streets. Citizen bloggers and online voices spoke relentlessly on the issue until the mainstream media could not afford to disregard the issue. What would have otherwise passed unheard and beyond the margins became a talking point. A campaign to saves the people land and safeguard their rights was formed.

But the authorities continued to play deaf. The lumbering bulldozers and the march of the fascist police gradually tore down the last few homes. Over 5000 people including pregnant women, school going and infant children and the elderly lost their homes. 25 dissidents were roughed up, arrested and charge-sheeted. Over a 100 were detained for holding a rally. The paltry sum of Rs. 5000/- promised by Maverick builders to the people never arrived. The ‘alternate shelters’ supposed to be provided to the evicted families proved to be a lie. Instead, the authorities began to wash their hands off the situation by terming families as ‘illegal occupants’. Some families arranged temporary quarters for themselves, renting some paltry land many kilometers away from where their homes once were. They are the lucky ones. Over 100 families continue to live on the pavements, right across from the fences.

But help for the families continues to arrive from unexpected quarters. From concerned people like you who provided blankets and supplies and monetary help. Some volunteered on the ground helping various organizations rehabilitate and look after the families. Inspite of the government’s worst attempts, the citizens continued to show they are better than their elected representatives and the so-called ‘democratic’ bodies. The voices of the community were not allowed to fade away. They remain bolstered and the campaign continues.’PPP’ – these are the letters painted on the ugly fence that has been erected around the people’s land, an abbreviation for ‘Public-Private-Partnership’.  A bare-faced lie trying to pass off yet another large scale human rights atrocity in the cloak of development.

Tell the government you are no longer fooled by their act. Tell them that you stand by the families of Ejipura EWS in their rightful quest for justice. Sign the petition.

(Video by Christy Raj with Additional footage courtesy Karthik Ranganathan who covered the protests and demolitions as it unfolded)

 

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