Mumbai's slum-dwellers embark on Visthapan Virodhi Yatra

The agitation for Right to housing and land for the poor, continues with increased support from various organisations, at Anna Bhau Sathe Nagar, Mankhurd. Here thousands of people – men, women, children and aged are camping, with slogans asserting their Right to shelter, as a part of Right to Life. Read more

After arrests, lathi charge, demolition of about 400 houses, with almost 100 houses burnt to ashes, and death of Shivaji Bhutekar, people have gained courage and commitment to take over the land to rebuild houses. Black flags of protest are on the houses while belongings are being put back. Small shops selling immediate needs have brought a bit of live amidst despair.

Today, condemning the statement by the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavanji, and questioning the role of the Collector, Deputy Collector and Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM); Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan has challenged the government to prove whether it is with or against Aam Aadmi and whether it is in favour of providing houses to the Ministers and land to the builders but not the poor or even the middle class. The threat is looming over the communities, not only over 2800 houses in Sathe Nagar which are not yet demolished but also over Rafi Nagar, Sanjay Nagar (slums on the BMC land), Indira Nagar (on collector’s land) and other slums. There is no declaration of ‘slums’, under Section 4 of Slum Act, 1971, which the government is to take up in the case of communities living below subsistence level but it has not been done till date, in spite of our application for declaring not one but 19 slums.

The issue is who owns the land? If it is for development that the Government of Maharashtra is committed to, the land should not and cannot be unjustly distributed. Today 60% of slum dwellers are living on 6% of Mumbai’s land and more and more of slum land is being re-distributed to the builders,
fictitiously called, “developers”, benefiting the rich and political elite.

This is unacceptable. While the Government of Maharashtra has cheated the middle class and lower class organised under the banner of Nagari Niwara, slum dwellers are exposing the land grab.

Anna Bahu Sathe Nagar is now taking the lead and their Visthapan Virodhi Yatra, beginning today, awakening and organising of slum dwellers, SRA affected and others has begun today. After 2004, there will be another challenge to the government and MCGM, if they proceed with demolition and destitution instead of initiating development with land rights, under housing schemes like Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojana or BSUP. Mandala and Anna Bahu Sathe Nagar have already applied under these Central Government schemes.

No response by the state government officials or the ministers, except Narayan Rane’s assurance to take a report from the officials and the Mumbai Commissioner and visit the place. Local Corportor has extended support and written to the Chief Minister against demolition but MLA, Shri Abbu Azmi and
MP, Sanjay Patil have not yet made any expressive move in this regard.

A fact finding team, constituting of Varsha Gupte, Bino Paul, Satyen and Monica Wahi have conducted their exploration and listened to the voices of slum dwellers and would be preparing a report highlighting the consequences of demolition on the lives of slum dwellers, especially the children, women and aged persons.

The Satyagraha with legal action under SC& ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act, 1989, under Slum Act, 1971 and all human and legal rights instruments is on! Justice (Redt.) Suresh of Mumbai High Court has condemned the action of State Government and said that the demolition of housing of slum dwellers is illegal and unconstitutional because it violates the Right to Life and further his experience shows that today this is happening across the length and breadth of this country. In such a context, the only option left before the people is to be committed for struggle if they have to attain justice.

Ms. Medha Patkar and Justice H. Suresh (Bombay High Court) addressed the press conference today afternoon.

Organisations that have expressed Support & Solidarity to Struggle of Anna Bhau Sathe Nagar Slum Dwellers:1. Socialist Front, Subhash Ware, Pune
2. Janta Dal (Secular) Pratap Aoghade
3. Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Sanjiv Sane
4. Lik Rajniti Manch, MR Khan
5. Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Ram Sharmol
6. Rashtriya Sewa Dal, Bharat Latkar
7. Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, Datta Iswalkar
8. Samajwadi Mahaila Sabha, Varsha Gupte, Pune
9. Stree Mukti Sampark Samiti
10. Massom
11. SM Joshi Foundation, Pune
12. Shehar Vikas Manch
13. Apnalaya
14. YUVA
16. Nirbhay Bano Andolan
17. Railway Small Caterers Union
18. Bootpolish Worker Union
19. Chemical Mazdoor Sabha
21. Phule Shahu Ambedkar Vikas Manch
22. Janjagruti Vidyarthi Sanghatan
23. Kachra Kamgar Sanghathana
24. CORO
25. Republican Panther
26. NAPM (West Bengal)
27. Akhil Bhartiya Railway Khan Pan Railway Licensees Federation
28. Narmada Bachao Andolan
29. Parivartan