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Solidarity Protest held at Maharashtra Sadan, Delhi

Peoples Voice on June 3, 2015 - 9:09 pm in Rights

Various organizations held a demonstration at the Maharashtra Sadan, Delhi in solidarity with the slum dwellers who are holding Awaas Haq Satyagraha at Mandala, Mumbai since 26th May 2015. Thousands of slum dwellers, who had been displaced over ten years ago in 2004-05, came together to reclaim their land and rebuild their houses, in a historic struggle for right to housing and basic facilities in Mumbai. Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan launched the Awaas Haq Satyagraha (Struggle for Right to Housing) in Mandala, supported by basti dwellers from across the city and at least 5 thousand slum dwellers continued the satyagraha for a week.  Mandala is the first of its kind. It’s time for the city’s most exploited to assert their idenity, and claim their share from this city. Awaas Haq Satyagraha, is a historic Housing Rights movement where 5000 people who were displaced in 2004 – 05 from their homes in a demolition drive have returned and occupied 55 acres of prime land and declared mutiny.

Even after 7 days of satyagraha, the government did not indulge in a dialogue with the protestors. Since the past 3 days people at Mandala have been sitting on a relay fast to pressurize the government to have a dialogue with them and it is only now that the collector has given an appointment to meet with the people tomorrow. The government till now has been mostly indifferent to the demands of the Satyagrahis.

Everybody is frustrated by the false claims of the government, from farmers to industrial and construction labour, but the people of Mandala have set an example of resistance unmatched until now in the urban mindscape. People have taken a leave from their daily jobs, they have come back from their native land of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, left wedding unattended just to be a part of the Awaas Haq Satyagraha. Satyagrahis have demarcated the occupied land and mapped it out to start building their own homes in clear defiance to the tall claims of Rajiv Awas Yojana. A community school has been announced. Already people are badgering the administration to provide toilets and safe drinking water in the occupied land. Earlier, hawkers and vendors who had gathered in the protest grounds selling snacks and drinks were hounded by the police, but the community protected the rights of these small traders by facing the police. A relay fast has now begun and Satyagrahi after Satyagrahi is continuing the non-stop fast until their demands are met. The administration is silent. The city is not used to the voice of people living in slums. But the voices are getting louder and louder. Political factions and progressive citizens are coming forward in support of the movement. It’s important for the Mandala movement to succeed, to secure the rights it is fighting for. It is important because the patience of crores of people living precariously in this city is running out. It is important for the future of the city which can no more be built on the foundations of inequality. It is important if one wants the city to retain its soul.

In Delhi, the situation of slum demolition and displacement is similar and a struggle for getting rights over urban space and resources continues. Few organizations like  National Alliance of People’s Movements, Delhi Solidarity Group, Jhuggi Jhopdi Ekta Manch, Yuva, Housing and Land Rights Network, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan, Sangharsh Vahini and Khudai Khidmatgar expressed their solidarity with the people of Mandala. A memorandum was submitted to the Resident Commissioner asking the Chief Minister of Maharashtra to have a dialogue with the ‘Satyagrahis’ instead of being negligent towards them.

Subhrali Kachari
Delhi Forum

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