Going back to Golibar after another demolition drive is like meeting a friend whose face was blown off. Every building that had survived the previous demolition drives was a expression of resistance. Yet this time, the bulldozers drove into the centre of the society, smashing through homes and littering rubble where the people had their meetings.
It was the 19th of May when the MHADA and the police had come to demolish homes again. It was a time when people expected the builder be chargesheeted and prosecuted for fraud, as per the orders of the High Court, yet the police and the MHADA had come to demolish homes. It was a familiar story. On the 2nd of February, the High Court asked for the police to chargesheet the chief promoters of the project but the MHADA and the police would still show up to demolish homes for the next two days.
This time, on the 19th, the script was different: after a stone-pelting incident, the police arrested around 13 people, including an 80 year old woman, then broke down home after home as residents were helpless and activists tried to contact every official from the SRA chief to the Chief Minister who could stop the demolition. On the second day, the activists and residents would be detained at nearby Kherwadi police station. The demolitions would continue.
Then there would be a hunger strike. The government would relent, and the demands that were accepted by the government were: 1) Decision regarding declaration of settlements as slum under section 4 of Maharashtra Slum Area Act and to be undertaken for improvement as per section 5. 2) A joint meeting involving representatives of Government of Maharashtra, Government of India & Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao to discuss implementation of Rajiv Awas Yojana in Mumbai. 3) Activation of the existing High Powered Committee, chaired by Chief Secretary, appointed by Honourable HC in 2005 meant for reviewing the policies & recommend or suggest new policies related to slum housing to government of Maharashtra. 4) A four member committee chaired by Justice (Retd) H Suresh and Simpreet Singh, Sh. Satish Gawai & K P Bakshi as members to investigate and make recommendations related to Ganesh Krupa, Golibar Society by 15th June to Government of Maharashtra. 5) A five member committee chaired by Justice (Retd) H Suresh and Sh Sudhakar Suradharkar (EX IPS Officer) Simpreet Singh, Sh. S S Zende & Swadhin Kshatriya as members to investigate into 15 SRA & 3K cases of fraud and forgery, including Shivalik Ventures Project, and submit a report by 30th September to government of Maharashtra.
The reaction of the mainstream media has been expectedly deplorable. Most have gone on to mention that the Golibar slums are ‘illegal’, and have completely obviated from the fact that the builder has committed fraud.
Many have limited this to a ‘local’ issue, that this is a ‘right to housing’ struggle. But a closer look brings us to realize, that it is a battle against the rot in the system, against the corruption in the system that is meant to protect the rights of the people. The changing of the battlefield is something that is entirely credited to the residents themselves and the help they got from Saint RTI, who helped to expose how the builder and the government conspired to cheat the people and even itself, by stealing public lands from other departments – Western Railways and the Defence Ministry. Without their contribution, it would’ve just been the people versus bulldozers, rather than the people, who have stripped the government bare, versus the bulldozers that have no right to be there.
The Law Of The Land Is The Law Of The Realtor
A short recap – the Slum Rehabilitation Act requires that a builder get consent from 70% of the residents before he can begin to develop the area. In this case, the builder Shivalik Ventures has papers to show that he has consent from 95% of the residents, which is nothing but a blatant forgery. In the case of Ganesh Krupa Society, the general body meeting where the residents ‘gave their consent’ has been a holy ghostly affair, as even the dead had come back to life, to give consent to the builder. An old lady Sulochna Pawar, who died on the 30th of January 2005, learned to write in the four years she spent in the afterlife, to only come back to sign in English, in a meeting held by the builder on the 7th of February 2009.
The people went to the police to lodge and FIR. The police refused. They complained to the Slum Rehabilation Authority who took no cognizance of their complaints. The people had gone to the Courts, and the Courts ordered the police to lodge an FIR, and police did so without mentioning the builder.
In an order passed by the High Court on the 2nd of February, 2011, (during a demolition drive), the Court stated: ‘The first grievance made in this Petition is that the Investigating Officer has, for reasons best known to him, not mentioned the names of the Partners of M/s. Madhu Construction Company as accused inspite of being named by the Petitioner as involved in commission of alleged offence.’
(Partners of M/s Madhu Construction Company = Shivalik Ventures.)
‘The other grievance made before us is that although, more than three months have elapsed since passing of the order dated 15th September, 2010 in Criminal Writ Petition No.2383 of 2010 which was filed by the Petitioner, the Investigating Officer has merely registered the FIR and done nothing more.’
‘We are also at a loss to know as to why Investigating Officer has not proceeded against the accused for last 90 days.’
The criminal court continued to pass orders that no one paid any attention to, but the response by the civil courts is one of the most shameless aspects of this case. The constitution literally be damned as we’re structurally adjusted to mass imbecility when the word ‘development’ is mentioned in closed whispers, or in the courts. Apparently, if you cheat people, commit fraud, steal public lands, forcefully break people’s homes down, threaten them with consequences if they spoke up, it’s all okay, to the High Court that had ruled the Civil case in favour of Shivalik Ventures, by stating, ‘We find that out of 320 tenements in the concerned slum, as many as 167 tenements have been demolished and occupants have already been shifted to temporary alternate accomodation. Therefore nousefulpurpose will be served by allowing the petitioners to raise any dispute about the meeting which was held on 7th February 2009.’ [Italics mine]
This High Court says no useful purpose will be served by taking cognizance of mass forgery. In other words, the High Court of 420 says, no useful purpose will be served by following laws.
It is this case that the people lost, that the MHADA officers and the police are very happy to cite, trying to justify demolition drives.
But what about the order on the 12th of April, 2011, in the criminal case, Writ Petition 172 of 2011?
‘That this Hon’ble High Court be pleased to direct to issue a Writ of Mandamus or appropriate Writ Order in the nature of Mandamus directing the Respondents to include the names of the Partners of M/s. Madhu Construction Company, viz. Bhagwandas Gilda, Vasudev M. Gilda, Gangadevi M. Gilda as accused in the F.I.R.No.234/2010.’ [Italics mine]
So the High Court, also says, chargesheet the builder. But the police comes to demolish people’s homes instead, repeatedly stating ‘the matter is under investigation.’
And all of this was pointed out to Chief Secretary Ratnakar Gaekwad, the SRA chief S.S. Zende under whose purview, the Letter of Intent to the builder can be cancelled, as per SRA rules and regulations, if a criminal case were to be proved against the builder.
Yet none of them moved. It was only after a 9 day long hunger strike by a 57 year old activist that the government considers in setting up a committee. They won’t act on anything yet, just the committee. If the hunger strike would’ve asked for the builders to be put in jail, the government would’ve probably let Medha Patkar die.
The Media Is The Menace
Children playing at Ganesh Krupa Society
Most newspapers and middle-class attitudes seem to find slums as criminal and the slum-dwellers as cheats. That the media dehumanizes slums and designates them as devoid of any human sentiment is something explicitly evident in not just corporate policy but in the attitudes of the reporters themselves.
In Mid-day, a report titled ‘Want a house? Build a Shanty’, a reporter, mentions that: ‘While you struggle to buy a house with your hard-earned money, all slum dwellers in the city, irrespective of when they came to Mumbai, could get housing for a pittance, if activist Medha Patkar has her way.’
Who does not struggle to buy a house with their hard-earned money? Does a slum dweller have no right to demand a home for building the city that the rich live in? Does this reporter think that the working classes of the city don’t ‘struggle to build a home with their hard-earned’ money?
Apparently, the years of demolition, and the insecurity of an existence, the right to life, isn’t a concern to the reporter. The article reeks of class hatred and why wouldn’t anyone be surprised? The almighty journalists, the self-expropriated guardians of cynicism wouldn’t ever get their hands dirty with the aspirations of the people against a ruling class that sticks their fists up their behind. That they despise activists is not a secret, but that they despise them as they don’t have the guts to fight with the people, is something they should openly accept: it is their guilt over the starving millions that drives their hatred for the people who’d die for them.
The Hindustan Times and The Times of India have even quoted Shubhangi Shinde, ex-resident of Ganesh Krupa Society, who has been chargesheeted as an offender in the forgery case. That she is to be investigated by the police for her involvement in the forgery has not been mentioned in the Hindustan Times report that mentions – “There is too much delay in our rehabilitation. Although the high court ordered the demolition in September, and the supreme court concurred with its decision, a few people in the society have been stopping it every time,” said Shubhangini Shinde, chief promoter of Ganeshkripa society.”
The double standards of the Hindustan times is absolutely blatant as it makes no mention of the High Court order calling for her to be arrested, or the builder to be chargesheeted and investigated.
As of now, the builder has started to fund rallies against Medha Patkar and the journalists are giving these pro-builder rallies full coverage. The builder himself is taking out hoardings of articles written in his favour and has hung then across the slum. The full outcome of a very calculated media strategy is one that is repeated across the country: of divide and rule. To get at least 10% of the people in favour of the builder and the media can easily manipulate it into a majority.
Previously, in February, the mainstream media had given full coverage to another pro-builder rally. The Times of India had headlined it as ‘Golibar Locals Protest Against Medha Patkar’, but when an anti-builder rally was held, not a single news organizations had given it coverage, besides Hindustan Times who had two small paragraphs.
A photograph from that rally is below.
Post script – Golibar Diary
The following are a group of un-published and published notes and articles from the last few months I’ve spent in Golibar. I live a mere ten minutes away from Golibar, and often after spending long periods in central India, I found myself surrounded by a din of bulldozers, slogans, and the crying of mothers silenced by the hammering down of walls and doors.
The first time, the demolitions had come during my involvement with the people was on the 24th of November, 2010, and that day, the people had won. They chased the police and the demolition team away. The second time, I was in Kalinganagar investigating the death of a 12 year old girl, killed by the police as an alleged Maoist. In a bus in Raygada, I’d get updates from my friends in the basti about everything that happened. That time, there were beatings, arrests and a lathi-charge at Golibar and the MHADA managed to break down some 20 homes. The police also beat up a fourteen year old boy.
I had returned home, and to Golibar, ten days later to be lucky to watch a street play about the demolition put up by the young children of Golibar.
A few days later, there would be another demolition.
This time, I was there for every minute. An unpublished, incomplete article about it is included in this entry, along with a piece I had written for my ex-employers The New Indian Express :
THE RULES DON’T APPLY IN GOLIBAR
A policeman breaks down during a demolition drive at Ganesh Krupa Society on the 3rd of February, 2011
The 2nd-3rd-4th of January have seen brutal demolition drives against the residents of Golibar’s Ganesh Krupa Society, starting with the20th of January when the police lathi-charged and detained over 48 people, including Medha Patkar along with women and children. Yet on the 2nd of February, 2011, the High Court ordered the police to arrest the chief promoters of the builder Shivalik Ventures, including the managing directors Ramakant Jadav and Kiran Jadav. Yet over the next two days, instead of arresting the chief promoters for fraud, the MHADA and the police still arrived at Ganesh Krupa Society, Golibar to demolish homes.
‘We have a High Court order to follow,’ Says Deputy Collecter Rokade to the people of Ganesh Krupa Society, as they tried to prevent their ‘pukka’ homes from being demolished on the 3rd of February. The people attempted to get a stay order on the demolitions in lieu of the order by the High Court regarding the criminal case, yet their turn at the court never came up, as homes were slowly being broken down by the MHADA.
The Slum Rehabilitation Authority has complete authority to cancel the Letter Of Intent given to the builder if there is any evidence of fraud, yet it has not responded to any of the complaints of fraud or forgery made by the residents of Golibar against the builder.
As of the 8th of February, the people don’t have a stay order, and the police are yet to arrest the chief promoters for fraud. Meanwhile, the residents of Golibar along with members of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao, marched into the Adarsh building and symbolically started to take over apartments, which have to be demolished as well, as per an order by Minister of Environment and Forests.
‘The government tries it’s best to protect the homes of scamsters, but destroys the homes of the poor with great urgency.’ Said a resident of Ganesh Krupa Society.
At the same time, one of the biggest investors in the SRA project is Unitech Group, who is already under investigation in the 1.7 Lakh Crore 2G Spectrum Scam. In a public hearing/rally on the 6th of February, where thousands of residents gathered on the road next to demolished homes, it was brought to light by members of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao, that the Unitech group that is also responsible for the breaking of their homes, has close ties to Niira Radia, and had also received Rs. 750 crore from the infamous Lehmann Brothers.
In a Top Secret memo regarding Unitech Group, from the Office of the Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), that intercepted phone calls between Niira Radia and associates, it has been mentioned, ‘There is suspician that the group has taken bogus loan entries through entry operators. The entry operator, worried by the then recession, wanted to reverse the loan entries.’
‘There are conversations indicating Unitech’s worry when Lehmann Bros collapsed. There was concern regarding two more tranches of money which was due to come through Lehmann from “Third Party” investors. There are conversations of damage control and immediate bogus announcement of investments coming from Telecom Italia into the Telecom Venture.’
‘Investment into Telecom Venture finally came from Telenor Norway not Telecom Italia.’
‘Cheques given by Unitech to Tata Realty have “bounced” even through press briefings dictated by Ms Radia give out that “advance” has been cleared.’
Now, from 323 homes at Ganesh Krupa Society, only 143 remain. The people still live within their homes that have remained standing, or amidst the rubble, and have pledged to defend the rest of their homes against any other demolition drives.
* * *
Notes From A Rally
‘Neem ka patta kadva hai! Shivalik builder bhadwa hai!’
‘Neem ka patta kadva hai! Shivalik builder bhadwa hai!’
There were three days of demolition. There will be more, they say.
The people had to bear it, non-violently, as their homes and the homes of their neighbours were broken down. Contrary to mainsteam media reports, there were no violent protests- no hands were raised, no violence was inflicted by the people onto anyone. For two days, they were made to sit down quietly by their own people.
‘We’re family people, we don’t want our women and children in jail again, let them break our homes, our families are more important.’ Said Sudesh Paware of Ganesh Krupa Society.
On the third day, they had had enough. They packed themselves within the little gullies leading to their homes. They promised to delay the state on it’s demolition drive.
But a non-violent movement does not mean the people can’t verbally abuse the police and the builder.
‘You come into my house with dandas (sticks)’, Screamed a mother to the policeman, ‘And I’ll stick a danda into your little house.’
A crowd of children and women jeer loudly across the field of rubble and debris where the police loiter, as target practice for a long session of innovative abuse. Nobody cares for PG-13.
‘Harami hai, harami hai, salle builder log harami hai.’ Sings Atique to a crowd of cheering old women and children, clapping their hands, singing along. After three days of demolition, it had put a smile on everyone’s face – those who were weeping, who were crying, and screaming were now laughing, dancing. It was five o’ clock, the demolitions had to stop, it was over, temporarirly.
Then there was a rally. The people left their homes and started a slow march towards the transit camps, where the builder is trying to coerce the people into opposing the resistance.
‘Galli galli mein shor hai, shivalik builder chorr hai.’
‘Galli galli mein shor hai, shivalik builder chorr hai.’
From hundreds, it became a rally of thousands. Residents opposing demolition went up to the transit camps and found their names on the doors of locked homes. Residents whose homes were long broken down who lived in the transit camps filled every window, looking at the crowd.
Women whose homes were broken down by the MHADA forcefully, spoke up against the builder as thousands stood to listen to the small handheld loudspeaker. The builder has failed to provide any of the residents of Golibar with a registered agreement, leaving people to rot in camps for months on end with zero gaurantee that they will ever get a home.
The rally then continues to the mosque. It was Isha namaaz time, and thus the speech outside the mosque was shorter.
It continues through little narrow passages deeper into the basti.
‘Neem ka patta kadva hai! Shivalik builder bhadwa hai!’
Yet a few teenage boys from the transit camps, around a hunded people behind, decided to reframe that slogan and screamed it out to their heart’s content.
‘Neem ka patta kadva hai! Shivalik ka lund thanda hai!’ (Un-translate-able)
‘Neem ka patta kadva hai! Shivalik ka lund thunda hai!’ (Un-translate-able)
‘She wanted to join the IAS.’ Said Parab bhai, ‘But after she saw how these IAS fellows behaved, she changed her mind.’
The young girl smiled shyly. There was no secret that the MHADA collectors who broke her father’s home were all IAS cadre.
* * *
The wrench that can be thrown into the machinery of the corporate state, is the slum.