Category Archives: Diary

Ejipura Diary: 26th January to 9th February

26th January to 9th February

Relief work has since been split into two units- one at Sarjjapur where families have been sleeping in the corridors of the Slum Housing Board colony on Hosa Road, and the footpaths of Ejipura. The former is marginally easier to deal with- fewer people, and while they are miles away from their homes, schools and jobs, they are at least safe and far from police harassment, the rumours, the fear of having their belongings tossed out any minute. Katie, Meera, Mayank, Yateesh, Aditi and others form the Sarjjapur team and work dedicatedly. A school bus for children in private schools is organised and other children are admitted in government schools. Social surveys have been carried out in both locations, courtesy Azim Premji University students at Sarjjapur, and by volunteers at Ejipura. The process of identifying homes, rehabilitation sites, shifting vulnerable members of the community to chowltry halls in the vicinity begins, just as rents shoot up all over the city.

February arrives, bringing with it a shiny new fence that has been decorated in our faces and pronounces the dawn of a proud new PPP. Vijayalakshmi, a resident who stays near the Ganpathi temple, threatens the police with self-immolation when they try to get her to move to complete their dominion.

There is an effort to get all groups involved to work with each other on a common forum. It is offset by meetings with the community to figure out their expectations, directions relief work should take and obtain consent for any advocacy efforts planned. A grandiose protest is planned for the 9th of February.

9th February 2013

The protest is closely followed only by Maverick, the BBMP and the police, and matched in planning and strength. Maverick obtains an injunction that prohibits prohibits picketing, sloganeering and demonstrating anywhere within a 100-metre radius of the EWS land at Ejipura, including public spaces, roads, footpaths, private houses and the National Games Village complex.

Hundreds of lathi-wielding cops swarmed EWS from 9 am onwards in solidarity with the private real estate firm, outnumbering protestors for a good two hours.

Kaveri and Gee, along with Sumathi and Sunil, Vijji, are confronted by over 30 cops, including those who had beaten them, and arrested once again in the middle of relief work, trying to ensure there was no backlash on the community while the protest was in swing. A man who sees that they have been taken away is also thrown in, along with another man who cries out ‘but they were distributing food.”

I get there just as Sumathi is being pushed into a van. Gee waves from inside and before I can ask my rickshawallah to follow them, they are gone. Vijji is beaten badly and jeered at by the police while in the station for threatening immolation. It feels like a bad repeat of the 19th. Gopika, Geeta, Anu and others are also threatened with arrest when they try to go in or leave the Ganpathi temple lane.

I try to speak to the ACP of Adugodi Police Station and ask them where they’ve been taken, to which I receive no certain answer. “Why are these people protesting?” he asks me with mounting frustration. “They just have to get out and we will construct beautiful apartments for them.” I ask him why there are so many vans. “Because we will arrest now, we will arrest in the afternoon, we will arrest in the evening and we will keep arresting.”

The protest finally gets under way and around 1500-2000 people from varied groups and EWS residents make their way from the Ambedkar statue at Austin.  Water cannons and 3 large police vans arrive to welcome them at the turning from Viveknagar to Ejipura.

The protestors are stalled and not allowed to enter the colony. A sit-down ensues in the middle of the road for over two hours. Volunteers who have been trying to ensure that nothing happens to the community are threatened with arrest. Over 150 protestors court arrest and are taken to the Adugodi police station.


Ejipura Diary: Republic Day, 2013

26th January 2013

The day of our republic. Breakfast arrives as it should, logistics worked out smoothly between Ejipura and Sarjapura. Sandhya and Sweta are on duty at EWS. There’s a collective sigh of relief as the Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar is quoted on the front page of The Hindu, assuring everyone that people will indeed be allowed to stay on at least till the end of the academic year and temporary structures will be built for them.

At half past noon, all hell breaks loose. Garuda mall, police and BBMP officials beginning forcing people into vans, give them a voucher for Rs. 5000 and get them off the land. The 5000 dwindles down to 2000, as push turns into shove.

By 4 pm, the last of the structures are demolished and every single resident who has not already fled is now on the footpath. We run around like headless chicken trying to reach out to television media on a national holiday. Sweta and I try calling individual channels, including the network I once worked for, but there is no response except from a local Kannada channel, Suvarna TV that makes its way from a flag hoisting.

Many volunteers have tried to confront the police, stop them from throwing out people, but they are advised them to back down and avoid getting arrested, because we might not be able to afford both bail and relief. At the back of our heads, we know that it might just help turn up the noise.

Eventually, it turns out there is nothing we can do in the face of hundreds of police on duty for the protection of private builder who just happens to be the son of Karnataka’s former Director General of Police. I am shaking. I speak to Javed who has been consistently covering the demolitions in Mumbai that received close to zero press coverage, who tells me that if the cameras haven’t been here in the past week, they will never come and that I shouldn’t waste my energies but instead focus on what the community wants. That we should not try to hijack the resistance or make it about our shame and our outrage and our long-term solutions. I try to tell him that that unlike the Ghar Bachao Andolan, locals in Ejipura believe that their own leaders have betrayed them, that they have been through and are up against too much to resist now, and it will take time to build confidence, expect them to lead their own struggle. I catch myself mid-sentence, knowing that I am wrong.

Rage and helplessness and anger arrive in waves, but there is no time to grieve. There is dinner to be arranged for and 85 families who have been too afraid to eat, waiting in line. I swallow my pointless sense of defeat for later and start making the calls.

The republic continues to be carved in front of our eyes.

Ejipura Diary: 23, 24 and 25 January, 2013

23rd January 2013

The word has spread: offers of food, clothes and blankets pour in from across the city for the next 24 hrs, non-stop. I am back in my sustainable, gated, ivory tower, glued to my hands-free while Sumathi, Sunil and Vinay are on the ground, helping with food, guiding volunteers, negotiating with police, taking the elderly to shelters and trying to keep the bulldozers at bay. Gee and Kaveri plunge back into relief work, despite their bail conditions being easy to misconstrue by any of the police around.

In the course of a few days, I speak to other people who I will begin to rely on more than family in the weeks to come for the first time. Mayank and Yateesh offer to raise money to buy 400 blankets, Lavanya, Gayatri and Prabha help provide home-cooked dinner and breakfast for the next couple of days and put me in touch with doctors and fellow volunteers. Dr. Sylvia is on site every other day. Ashlin, Abhishek, Siddharth, Eli and Dorji dedicatedly serve food at every shift. Musheer from Shalimar Hotel, Akshay Patra, Kevin and Mr. Mannivannan become food sources to count on. Then there are familiar names of people I’ve known of but never really knew. JP, a writer friend of my husband’s is there every morning at 9 to help with the breakfast shift. Geeta, mother of a friend and colleague, organises food from hotel banquets. I find out that the woman volunteering for the lunch shift is set to marry my uncle later this week.

We set up a Facebook page and start getting help from the very first day.

In between calls, the mind strays to whether this is all a hair too late; that the worst had been done, and here we were, handing out food packets and mineral water. I question my own motives, of whether this was a wave not of sympathy, but guilt that this was done for the discerning dollar of world-class citizens like myself. I swallow the thought and keep the gratitude as it keeps coming.

Slowly, the press is interested in the wave of humanitarian relief that was making its way to the site, just as we we wonder why no one but The Hindu or Citizen Matters would report it for the tragedy it is.

24th January 2013

Just as 500 blankets reached the site the previous evening, news trickled in that an elderly woman had died out in the cold. The seriousness of what we were trying to do versus what they were faced with hit home harder than ever before. More blankets, more water, more volunteers, more logistical nightmares and hidden blessings arrived through the day, just as the police constantly kept threatening to throw out residents’ belongings.

Every time this would happen, we’d send a message out to our volunteers and friends in the media and when they got there, the threats would stop. Many of them started to believe that we were hysterical activists, crying wolf. But if it weren’t for the few who showed up consistently, demolitions would have finished in 2 days flat.

Every time there were no core volunteers on shift, when activists and lawyers were out lobbying for temporary shelters and stopping demolitions, getting verbal assurances from everyone from the Chief Secretary, the CM,  the Mayor, the BBMP Commissioner and the Home Minister, houses were simultaneously being razed down at EWS. Barricades were put up on the main road, forcing volunteers to haul food and water for hundreds of people on foot. An exodus had already begun and many people fled to find shelter in a Slum Board housing project in Sarjapura, only to find themselves without a house, sleeping in the corridors in the cold, with no water, food or help for miles in sight, their children miles away from school and their jobs left behind. The only succor was that they were finally at a distance away from the constant intimidation and harassment and noise and horror and panic that had turned those in Ejipura to nervous wrecks.

In the afternoon, we receive word that the police were threatening to kick out all people by 4 pm, once and for all. Violent confrontation seemed imminent and we sent word out to all the volunteers to get there as soon as they could. Volunteers themselves were constantly being threatened to stop relief work. One of the locals who was helping serve food was beaten up by the police and taken to the station. The police build up grew; we continued to fear the worst as night unfolded, largely without incident. We count and thank our stars.

25th January 2013

A protest had taken place that morning outside the CM’s residence, but was stalled by the police who jeered at activists and students who joined the residents. “The lady policewomen were laughing at us, saying why are you joining them, do you think it will make any difference? Don’t waste your time in this heat and go back home,” said a student from St. Joseph’s.

For the rest of us, it was a day of relative peace. Blankets, clothes, medicines and doctors arrive at the scene, as we decided to schedule a volunteer meeting to address many different concerns- from whether we needed to be giving out money for advances, whether we could possibly work together with all the different groups in place, but most importantly, how many people were left and what did they have to show to qualify for either government rehabilitation (if it ever materialised) or the advances being offered by other parties involved in relief. Trust was at an all-time low with relief money coming in and we had no new information- many people didn’t have even basic documentation to qualify for help, while others, despite having a full deck of cards, had not received any compensation or proof of any alternative accommodation.

Tensions had already been created between original allottees and renters, and rents in nearby parts of the city had started skyrocketing. We decided that the most important thing to be done was a social survey- and that all parties needed to come together to clear any confusion on each other’s parts and work together. The biggest question that still remains is this- does helping with rehabilitation mean letting those responsible for their condition completely off the hook?

Ejipura Diary: 21 and 22 January, 2013

21st January 2013

I finally decide to leave my comfort zone and head to the site with Andrea and Stephie, taking Karthik’s videos with me.

I brace myself and search my head for the only memory I have of this place to compare it with what I am going to see now, despite having lived in Koramangala for 2 years. It is one of puttering through thigh-level sewage  in the rains inside an auto, water gushing through the tin roofs on to the street and people stranded outside their homes.

Even that does not prepare me for what I am going to see. It is a warzone. Mounds of rubble, fires burning from last night, 5000 people’s belongings lie strewn and buried. Only narrow frames of houses remain, police crawling in and out and all over the site. People are torn between going to work or keeping an eye on their belongings that the cops have threatened to start throwing out. Every single pipe has been occupied. Men and women alike burst out in grief. No one has slept for nights for the fear of being homeless the next. There has been no water or power for four days now. No one has been able to bathe and everyone has to resort to open defecation at night.

Eyes follow us everywhere as we try to talk to people who take a break between carting away the tin sheets that the BBMP hasn’t yet touched and extracting their possessions from heaps- plastic buckets, schoolbooks, utensils, house papers, pictures of gods stick out from under. I am suddenly acutely conscious of everything I own. Everything that can fit in half a tempo or be piled up on a bicycle is stowed away.

Those who talk to us are convinced that they will be picked up the very same evening. They show us their certificates of demolition and biometric cards, while the majority complain that they have not received any.  I promise to return, head to a thinly attended press conference where I try to push pictures and videos on to the handful gathered, again believing in the non-partisan power of the press, when except for The Hindu, I have only seen otherwise. We go back to Karthik’s to try and upload more videos, when Gee calls- they have to be in court the next morning and somebody needs to be at site at the break of dawn in case the bulldozers arrive again. We set our alarms for 5 am and fall asleep at 3.

22nd January 2013

It’s 6 am when we get there. We’re each wearing three jackets and a shawl but shards of cold still wriggle their way in. A JCB is parked outside the colony, its operators asleep in the shadow of its jaws. I try to take a picture, but I’m interrupted by a man who wants to know why I want to take a picture of the men who broke his home. He doesn’t think it is possible that they were just following orders.

We start walking to the closest fire, only to stop at each pipe along the road where someone is keeping watch while his/her family tries to sleep. Each tells us their story, of biometric cards and demolition letters that never came and scraps of paper they’ve been collecting to deserve a spot in a mythical rehabilitation colony in Sarjapura.

 Karthik heads off to buy milk and coffee and biscuits and buns, as the colony slowly rises. We go from lane to lane and home to home, handing out one packet each or half a bun. We are thanked and we are shamed. Even still, we run out every 15 minutes and six trips are made just for breakfast. Along the way, we hear stories- of carpenters, of electricians, of single mothers, of hand embroiderers with university educated daughters, of proud parents whose children work night-shifts at call-centres and attend college during the day and have yet to come home to see their homes like this. Others beg us to take their 10th standard children and admit them in hostels.

We finish serving breakfast only at 11, breaking in the middle to get the women to court on time. A police van arrives and scores of cops get out. We walk to the police chief from the Crime Branch, tell him that activists have been invited by the BBMP Commissioner at 10:30 and try to get an assurance that demolitions won’t begin again until they receive word from after the meeting.

We are told that the police is only there for the BBMP’s protection; right after we meet the women who were battered two days ago, one sustaining a fractured leg in the lathicharge.

The atmosphere is manic and paranoid- we can neither leave the police buildup, in case BBMP chief engineer BT Ramesh comes and authorizes demolition, while at the same time, the Akshay Patra van rolls in for lunch and there are more than we-don’t-know-how-many thousand people who haven’t eaten in days.

Food runs out in half an hour, barely feeding 200 people. I have the hardest fucking time saying no to children who come back or have been sent to get seconds for the rest of the family. I find myself looking for traces of dal in plates to see if they’ve eaten before and ask young Nikat who befriended me if she can point out who’s already been served.

We get on Karthik’s bike to go fetch drinking water, beginning with 2 cans per lane, trying to reassure residents who haven’t had water to drink for a while that there’s more coming. On the ethernet, mails go out and word begins to spread and the phone calls begin. The first volunteer we see there is Dr. Sylvia, followed by BSW students from St. Joseph’s with their professor who dragged them out of class, followed by Pushpa, who helps us delegate work. We hand out 2k a head and send them to get more food from the closest restaurant. Others are sent to get more cans of water and yet another batch is put on a social survey to see if they can come close to a headcount so we know how much food to order. An informal meeting is called for on relief strategy. Since my number has gone out on a lot of mails, I now find myself  responsible for coordinating relief, volunteers and food.

I return to the main street, only to see that the MLA Harris has arrived to personally insult every volunteer or outsider he can find; some of the girls are in tears, others use this as a chance to ask him pressing questions about the relocation site in Sarjapur to which he has no answers. More help arrives despite it, and the day is consumed in trying to keep it together.

Ejipura Diary: 20th January, 2013

20th January 2013:

None of us have been able to sleep. Karthik came by yesterday evening from EWS and stays over. We go over and over the videos that he’s taken, trying to transcribe what we can, digest what we cannot. Exhaustion beats exasperation and we finally turn in.

Every half hour, we call back to get updates from the ground. At 11, a small and varied group of people- some individuals, some representing their organisations, gathered at the entrance of EWS to protest against the demolitions and the police brutality. They were joined by the residents, and two police vans, with more khaki droves in sight.

“Attempts by three JCBs to roll in were thwarted by the crowds that blocked their entry into the EWS colony,” said Arati of PUCL. The protesters were joined by the residents of the EWS and shouted slogans condemning yesterday’s brutality and the actions of BBMP which was destroying homes to help build a mall. They  walked through the colony carrying placards and dispersed after an assurance that there would be no more demolitions. It looked like the high tension was done for the day, and so the outsiders dispersed at noon, just as we were heaving sighs of relief that all the women and Kaveri and Gee had been released.

The JCBs returned at 15:30 and resumed demolition on a scale unseen before. The maximum number of houses were demolished that day and there was nothing anybody could do to stop it.

Mirno Pasquali, an American photographer who had been taking pictures in the area for over two weeks, was arrested when he tried to photograph a child who had sustained injuries from the demolitions. He had also been threatened by a senior cop on the 19th: “If you don’t leave this area, I’ll arrest you for obstructing me in doing my duty.” Mirno was taken to the station to be questioned, offered chai by the inspector and let off a few hours later with a warning. Residents who were roughed up and detained on petty charges were offered no such luxuries; Shabana returned home with a broken leg that still hasn’t healed.

That night felt like the coldest night of the year. The women, up till then the most vocal, returned with bruises to broken homes and their children not to be found. Hundreds of people tried to take shelter in large pipes with their belongings, while many slept out in the biting cold, trying to burn whatever would ignite- wood scraps, plastic, and eventually, clothes, mattresses and blankets. On the ground, Sumathi and Sunil distributed whatever food and water they could afford from their own pockets; similar efforts were on at the Masjid, but none of it was enough.

This was a humanitarian crisis in the heart of Bangalore that nobody wanted to look at and every television camera had missed. Company goons prowled the colony at night, sexually harassing women  when they were not looting what little was left of people’s life savings, the police threatening anyone who dared to speak to reporters or camerapeople.

I tossed in my double bed, miles away from the scene, unable to do anything but post and call and tweet and plead with strangers. As if words or videos could keep anyone safe or warm.

18th and 19th January 2013: Ejipura Diary

18th and 19th January 2013

Disclaimer: My role (determined by weird health) in this has been one of coordinating a section of relief work and trying to get the issue public attention up until a point, with not as much field work as I would have liked. It may not have as many stories from the community, so apologies if this reads like an ‘activist’ story. I write only because others in the field have little time to reflect.

I wake up with a call from a friend at 09:15 in the morning, saying that Kaveri and Gee had been beaten up and arrested along with 50-60 other women at the EWS colony in Ejipura, near the National Games Village. He tells me that Karthik is now the only outsider at the scene, not sure what to do and who to reach out to. His videos of the events of the 19th are available here.

6:40 am: The bulldozers had rolled in at the break of dawn, way before any of us would want to rise from our rajais on a Saturday morning. Demolitions had been going on for week and there was still no media, no traction, no visible activism, except for Kaveri and Gee, Sumathi and Selva and a few others. Karthik had sent me a message earlier that morning that I slept through.

I think of Kaveri and Gee. Their actions have been criticised by many I know as being impulsive, without care for their own person, without strategy. But from what I’ve known of them in the last two years, they are often the first to tread on shaky ground before organisational wheels begin to turn and go really help with the essentials, be it famine in Raichur, or taking bags of grain to villages torched in Chattisgarh.

I first saw an appeal planning “a massive march between all slums of Bangalore culminating in a rally upon the EWS quarters grounds” earlier this month and then received this message from Kaveri on the 18th around noon: ““EWS quarters demolitions are underway. Please  join at the site in front of National Games Village and inform all friends in the area. Thanks”.

I acted on neither, forwarded the message and considered my duty done, perhaps like many others who didn’t know enough, or had the luxury of choosing their protests. One human rights lawyer, right after their arrest, asked “Why didn’t they call a press conference or notify us earlier?”

They did send word, but few listened, besides those who were personal friends without affiliations.  Demolitions of houses had been going on intermittently since the 10th, but had little currency in the media, save for The Hindu and Citizen Matters.

Many of the women, who do housekeeping work at National Games Village, or in and around Koramangala, had not being going to work for the last week the fear their houses will be demolished. Many had lost their jobs. I think of my maid Kumari who made my 15k 2BHK in Koramangala habitable for less than Rs. 1500 a month. She was a widow with a kindergarten-going son and a full family to feed. I had no idea where or how she lived. The guilt churned in my stomach.

On the morning of the 18th, “between 10 to 11 am, they (the police, BBMP and Maverick officials) came to check out who all were there, whether residents were at office, whether children were at school, and women at work, and then the bulldozers came.”

BT Ramesh, Executive Engineer of BBMP, said 500 houses were (forcefully) vacated on the 18th, while local residents estimated 50-60 houses, possibly more, had been demolished. “Had they not been there yesterday, our lives would have ended yesterday itself. It is only because of them that we are here today,” said a woman resident, who was also beaten during the lathi-charge.

The BBMP said that it was demolishing only empty vacated houses but it was clear that they were the ones doing the vacating by force. Many residents complained that demolitions were being carried out without any warning, with children still inside the house. Most had not received any written notices, and demolitions took place bang at the most crucial time in the school year. Then again, this is not the first time residents have tasted the opposite of civic sense when fighting for basic dignity.

Twenty years ago, it was agitation by the residents- blocking major roads during rush hour, protesting outside the Chief Engineer’s office- that resulted in the government erecting a wall to stop flooding brought on by the genius idea to build the National Games Village on a wetland. (using Housing Board money, of course.)

“We are the ones who have struggled with no water, no power, snakes, insects, rowdyism and even murders have happened here. We’re the ones who’ve lived through all these fears, all these years, and now the house and the compensation will go only to the owners.”

In a report dated to March 2012, shortly after the concessionaire agreement was signed, residents were threatened with eviction without notice and within and water supply to the toilet complex of 10 toilets for 6500 residents was cut off. On Jan 18th, the first structures to be demolished were the women’s toilets, followed by a water tanker on the 19th, followed by the power lines the same afternoon.

Remains of the toilet complex.

Would they use the same vasooli tactics with a Garuda Mall on the grounds of being ungrateful tenants who hadn’t paid their dues?

At around 4 pm on the 18th, there were just a couple of photographers, people from the Samatha Sainik Dal, Kaveri, Gee and a few more of their friends. People had started vacating houses.

Both decided that the situation was too tense to leave and that demolitions would take place again the next day. They spent the night of the 18th with the residents of the EWS quarters.

Kaveri and Gee themselves stay in an urban settlement in Srirampura, a fact they reiterated when being questioned by the police on what right they had to participate in the protest. They asked for the eviction notice, to see the High Court Orders. “You have nothing to do with the eviction notice. Why do you bother?  Come to the station and then we’ll show you the orders.”

“Which is your area and why are you here?” shouted a policewoman.

“This is my friend’s house and I have a right to be with my friends in their houses.”

“Tomorrow there will be no house,” said Gee.

At this point, all the women gathered round. “If you arrest them, arrest us, we are all ready to face arrest. We will not move from here.” No one budged.

As much as they might cringe at being singled out, it was perhaps this affinity with the community and their presence over the last week that set them apart as the biggest troublemakers who needed to be dealt with. And so they were lathicharged along with 21 other women,  beaten and dragged into a police van, following which the women, some carrying their children, courted arrest.

The rest of the day is spent trying to get the word out to media and activists, to find the group that had been arrested. No one knew where they had been taken (the police were refusing to share that information); no one had a clear idea of who and how many people were arrested. The numbers on how many houses were demolished on the 18th are still shaky, but  the BBMP confirmed that that around 200 houses were demolished on the 20th and in all, out of the total 1,640 houses, as many as 1,000 were razed on Saturday, the 19th.

10:30 am onwards: A few others arrive at the scene. PUCL’s Aarti Choksi and Gowru are there by noon, and along with Raghu of Equations, confront the cops and BT Ramesh on the grounds of demolition and ask them to bring them to a stop. When Arati asks Ramesh for a copy of notices or eviction orders, nothing is produced. She is instead asked to file an RTI application.

Other groups head off to locate the group that had been detained. They are eventually found at around 14:45 at Thyagarajnagar women’s jail. “They said they would take us to the Adugodi police station, but instead they took us to the police quarters near Kalyana Mantapa saying that it was the police station. They put us in a shed and made us wait”

“A constable made us sign, made us write our names, our door number, and then then they took us to Banshankari, and finally Thyagarajnagar women’s jail. Then they read out 3 charges of the five they put on us- that we had hit the police, that we had without permission for protest laid down in front of a bulldozer, that we had obstructed officials, but we refused to sign. Then your people started to come and ask questions.”

At the same time, at Ejipura, Rajendran of the SSD announces that the Commissioner of Police had given them verbal assurance that the demolition would be postponed to April 10th, after the children’s exams were over. “A man who exclaimed his joy and surprise with an expletive was roughed up and thrown inside the police van,” says Karthik. “The incident further incensed the police, who began to demand why they should stop the demolition. Then, even BT Ramesh began to say that demolition would stop only once they received a written order.”

Hearing this, many members from local organisations left for the BBMP office and waited. Many were confident that the demolition would be deferred and those arrested would be freed by evening.

No such promises were inked. The police at the station started to threaten the lawyer and those trying to post bail that they’d better hurry up and get to a court before the Magistrate left for the day, or the detainees would have to spend the rest of the weekend in jail.

They were being held on 5 charges, of which only 3 were explained until the bail intimation letter was signed.  A policewoman  claimed that the protestors had “stones” and hence they were being held under the unlawful assembly with weapons charge. “The policewoman who had brutally beaten Kaveri and Gee claimed that she was kicked by Kaveri,” said Uma Chandru of Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS). They were then taken to the court of the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM).

The magistrate refused bail, took objection to the fact that ‘ladies’ were protesting, (“they should not be involved in all this”) and remanded them to three days of judicial custody. They were made to wait out in the cold from 8 pm to midnight, and then transferred to the Central Jail.

“They started to behave with us as if we were criminals. We haven’t robbed anyone, neither have we murdered anybody, but that’s how they were looking at us. Tell me if someone comes to break your house without telling you, will you go seek police permission to try and stop it?”

We tried to get the the story out and find people who could post surety. I speak to Partha Sarathi Ray, alumnus of IIsc. who, along with 69 residents and six other activists, were arrrested during a peaceful sit-in to protest the Nonadanga evictions in Kolkata early last year.

They were slapped with non-bailable charges and kept in custody for upto two weeks. Pregnant women and children suffered severe injuries from police lathi-charge, just as the state accused protestors of ‘ “possible stockpiling of arms and explosives”

“In court, they didn’t let us say a word,” said one of the Ejipura detainees. “They only dumped charges upon us, saying that without an order you slept there, then they said that you hit police with stones, hurt them with knives. We were trying to say that if we had hurt them with sticks and knives, there should be some signs of injury at least on their person, but they weren’t not letting us talk.”

It was decided that there would be a protest against police brutality and forced evictions the next day at 11 am.

Questions that lingered:

How was it decided that part of the EWS land be given for commercial use?

Doesn’t the concessionare agreement point to the need for relocation until the new flats are given?

Why despite the High Court judge agreeing that the decision to give the tender to Maverick Holdings was wrong was it chosen in the name of public interest?

When this case was in the High Court of Karnataka, why did the BBMP mislead the court by saying that all interested parties agreed to this arrangement? Why were not these bonafide residents not considered as “interested parties” in this agreement?

The Government has issued biometric cards, BBMP ID cards, Voter IDs and Ration Cards to the residents of EWS quarters. The BBMP Council even passed a resolution in 2005 that houses would be built for both allottees and non-allotees living in EWS Quarters. On what grounds are they now labelling them as encroachers?

Why were the residents who were recognised as lawful residents not consulted before any decision was made?

While EWS Quarters stood on 11.37 acres of land, how is 15.64 acres of land being handed over to Maverick Holdings?

How was Maverick chosen for developing Ejipura, despite its history (see here, here and here) of its previous awards being questioned by Assembly members, despite swindling the BBMP while accusing it of bribery, building outside its allotted area? Does track record stand for nothing in court awards and ‘concessionaire agreements’?

Why, despite a pending Lokayukta enquiry into the allotment of both the land for Garuda Mall and EWS quarters, were demolitions carried out?

Under Article 5, Section 9 Specific Obligations, point a., “the Concessionaire shall at its cost and expense prepare appropriate facility to enable BBMP to relocate the current residents during Implementation Period”. What is this facility and what is the penalty for Maverick having failed its specific obligations?

Why weren’t notices given to residents? How is it that in all eviction attempts, BBMP and the police have attempted demolitions without giving a month’s notice, instead citing a court order’s immediacy as an issue?

How is it that neither the police or the BBMP officials were willing to show any legal orders or eviction notices at the demolition site, and instead, activists were asked to apply for information via RTI?

Why were the bulldozers sent on a Sunday as well? Why was nothing done to better the situation of occupants in the 8 years of litigation?

Why did senior police, BT Ramesh and the Chief Secretary give false assurances, and then resume demolition on the afternoon of the 20th?

What is the actual revenue that will be shared between the BBMP and Maverick?

Why haven’t the families of victims who died in the building collapses in 2003 given compensation?

Why has the police been intimidating people endlessly that they will throw their belongings on the streets, despite assurances from the Chief Secretary, the BBMP commissioner and the Home Minister?


Transcripts of Videos, Interviews done by Karthik Ranganathan on Jan 19th, 2013

06:39 am : I received the first message of the day. “Evictions have begun and protests have begun here by women and children carrying photos of Ambedkar. Solidarity and media are needed.”

By the time I reached the EWS quarters around 07:30 am, the place was swarming with cops. A bulldozer was stationed across the road, near the petrol bunk. Some women residents were sitting at the entrance to the quarters, a few feet away from a line of policemen. After a few minutes of uneasy chatter, the police demanded the women blocking the entrance to move aside, saying that more officials will come over around 10:30 am. “Take up your questions and grievances with them.” Kaveri and Gee jumped in to say “ no we will not move from here.” and promptly squatted down.

I took the chance to talk to a couple of women.

07:57 am:
Women residents speak out

Woman 1 (speaking in Tamizh): “Been 12 years since I rented this place. Yesterday they gave us a biometric card, removed our belongings out. We spent the night in the cold, sitting outside, with our little children. My younger son suffers from kidney problem, requiring a monthly medical expense of Rs. 5000. How can I afford to set aside money for rent? These kids have exams next month. Where can we move now, with even advance notice?”

Woman 2 (speaking in Kannada): Breaking down – “We haven’t slept all night, we haven’t eaten. We won’t have jobs, we won’t have money, where do you expect us to go? For the last few days, we haven’t gone to work, simply out of the fear. We are scared to even go to work to the next house, and many of us have lost our jobs. Do we need to take our kids and go and live on the footpath? If they throw us out with our belongings? None of these people have slept. We are all one, living together like sisters. They are boys and girls of all ages living here. Where do we go now?  What do we do now? If we were given some advance notice of a month, then we could have a month, but if they come all of a sudden and start breaking houses, what can we do?”

(Video Clip 14)

It turns out the common toilet for the women was demolished the previous day and the one of the water tanks was among the first to be demolished on Jan 19th (a little later in the day). What were the BBMP officials thinking? Definitely not about school children and their exams. Their concerns are the elections, which is why they are in such a big hurry to get it done.}

08:08 AM – Kaveri and Gee refuse to move
Situation starts to get tense. Everybody’s congregating around the entrance, talking, moving around. Police start getting into the crowd, walking towards Kaveri, evidently identifying her as the focal point of the resistance. Kaveri, by now has squatted on the ground and is surrounded and badgered by the police to get up and vacate even as the police shoo others away from around Kaveri and Gee (standing behind Kaveri).
Kaveri: I’ll not leave this place and am just sitting here peacefully.

08:10: Police start to intimidate protestors
Policeman Y. Nagaraju gives instructions to the women policemen nearby to take Gee and Kaveri to the police station and starts asking Gee rather aggressively as what they are doing here, even as police surround the two of them. Finally Gee agrees to move and sit on the side of the road. A policeman with a handycam records everything happening around him.

08:12 Protesters argue with the Police

Policeman with the handycam addressing Kaveri and Gee –

Policeman: You know the law right? I have the High Court order with me, it does not prohibit eviction. Get me the stay order. Till then what you’re doing is illegal.
G and K: Show us the order.
Policeman: Come to the station and then we’ll show you the orders.’
G and K: Why should we come to the station, show us the order here”
“You have no business being here. Why are you here? I have proof to show you have nothing to do with this . We have the high court order. We have to give them protection, that’s what we’re doing here. Any protest you need to get permission from the police before this. Give us a letter requesting permission. If not, what you’re doing here is illegal”.
G: “Show us the eviction notice. You have not given it to anybody here”
Policeman: You have nothing to do with the eviction notice. Why do you bother? I have it right here with me.
“What is the proof that there is a house here”?
G and K point to a board on top of the shed. “Just because there is a board here, doesn’t mean that there was a house.
Other women: “If you arrest them, arrest us, we are all ready to face arrest” “We will not move from here”
A woman policeman starts shouting at Kaveri: “Which is your area and why are you here?”
Kaveri: This is my friend’s house and I have a right to be with my friends in their houses.”
Gee: “Tomorrow there will be no house.”

08:17 am Women residents argue with the Police:

Women residents start speaking out – Video can be seen here – Video 22
“We’ve been living here for 20 years.
There’s been no water, no electricity. All these years, no one came. And now you want to come here and throw us out?”

08:26: Karthik sends a message to various friends and activists – “Kaveri and Gee Ameina threatened with arrest. EWS quarters ejipura near National Games Village facing imminent demolition. Lots of police, bulldozers here. Need media. Need solidarity. Pls help. Pass this message. Email, facebook, sms.”

“If gents speak out, they are hauled into custody without question. They’ve already started demolitions.”

08:44 am Affected residents talk about earlier incidents

Lady talks about Kaveri and Gee and then recounts some of the incidents that have happened till now –
“Had they not been there yesterday, our lives would have ended yesterday itself. It is only because of them that we are here today.”

“Yesterday morning, everybody had gone to work. At 10-11 am, when people were at office, when children were at school,  they had come to see who was not there, and brought the bulldozers. Yesterday they broke over 50 houses. There are a total of 42 blocks and 1512 houses. All 1512 flats were occupied till the buildings started collapsing in 2003-04.  Then they went and demolished the whole thing. Since then we’ve been struggling here, there’s a lot of difficulty here. Power, water and bathroom were provided for free. Shed was constructed by Ashok. But MLA Harris is the one who is trying to get everybody thrown out.

“They’ve given us biometric cards, and asking us to go to Sulikunte after a year. Where will we stay for a year? All of us do domestic work around here. We typically get only Rs.1000 as pay, how can we be pay rent outside? How do we eat, get our kids educated? If we fall sick, how can we afford medical treatment? What we earn is just enough to feed ourselves, we cannot afford to pay rent outside. There are even beggars living here, where will they go? At least if you show us this is where you are going to stay, we will at least believe what you say and gamely try to rebuild our lives there. You just give us the card and expect us to vacate in the hope that we’ll get something after a year. The card given to us by Ashok is still of no use and we don’t see what this card will do.”

Lady to left:  “They are cheating us, Anybody who asks questions is being put into jail.

Nobody is bothered about us, they don’t really care about the difficulties we face, they are just concerned about their own lives. Yesterday ladies were lathicharged. They destroyed the bathroom.

Both the police and the local leaders from the slum are heartless. The latter are seeing us, the troubles we face, but they don’t come forward to help us. They also seem intent on just chasing us out.

Karthik: The new houses that are going to be constructed- is everyone going to get a house and who all have been promised houses?

“There is no trust, sir”

K: Will only the original allottees receive houses?

The allottees (owners) have gone away after letting their houses on rent. We are the ones who have beeen living and struggling here for the last 18-20 years.

And now the allottees, after all these years, have come back to claim their compensation, they want us to leave this place.

K: The 30,000 has been give to the….
Women: Allottees, sir. We are the ones who have struggled with no water, no power, snakes, insects, rowdyism and even murders have happened here. We’re the ones who’ve lived through all these fears, all these years, and now the house and the compensation will go only to the owners.

K: Are any of the owners staying here?
W: Most of the people here live on rent.

K: Where do most of you work?
W: NGV, right opposite. Housekeeping work in other places in Koramangala. None of us work in offices.

K: And the men?
W: As coolies, auto drivers, painters, electricians. Else they roam around here, but ladies are the ones who leave the house and go out to work. “Right now, both the men and women are all at home. Our lives are ruined, our jobs are ruined, our houses our ruined. If we don’t go to work for 3 days in succession, we lose our jobs. We don’t have a livelihood, even place to stand here. So if we go there, to try and save our jobs, that’s when they come and demolish our houses. Is there light at the end of this tunnel?”

“The TV doesn’t report our story, sir. It doesn’t get published in any newspaper. All the channels regularly come here, but no one writes about us. There is no publicity. So they don’t let the general public know about our plight.

“We want people in other places to know about our situation, understand and help us out, but no one reports our story.”

Another woman enters:” They’re arresting the ladies! Even when women question the cops, they’re being arrested! My husband has run away, I’ve been thrown on the streets with my 3 children and all our belongings.

See! They have started lathicharging for having asked questions. Who can we go complain to, tell me, when the police itself is beating us?

We’ve been sitting here in the cold without water, without food, with our babies in hand, without a job. Without a job, we don’t have food, none of us have proper food. We didn’t go to work so we won’t get money.

This has been going on for a week.

Some of the women have broken arms and legs because of being lathicharged.”

A kid comes running: They’re taking them into a van!

I go to film the arrest.

08:52 am Police dragging away protesters into police vans

Kaveri is being dragged by two women and one man. Gee is being dragged by 3 women.

8: 54 am: Brave women courting arrest

(After Kaveri and Gee’s arrest)

“Isn’t there justice for us? Isn’t there anybody to see our tears?”

10:18 am: Interview with B.T.Ramesh, BBMP Executive Engineer

(B.T.Ramesh is the chief engineer in charge of the BBMP-Maverick partnership to demolish the quarters and construct new flats on 30% of the land and a commercial mall on the remaining 70% of the land.)

BT Ramesh, Executive Engineer, BBMP: “Yesterday, we vacated 500 houses. We can’t say when this whole job will get done, but we’re working on it. We want to finish it today, that is the target. There are totally 1512 for whom we constructed the sheds, but the original owners have gone out and given this on rent. So for those who are living on rent, we are taking down their details and we’ve identified a place , a 5 acre piece of land in Sulikunte. Survey no. 122. We are giving a biometric record and in Survey No. 122, we will be constructing houses for them via the Slum Board.  We’ve given this to 150-200 people  (on rent) who will be rehabilitated. Even among those who are living on rent, we are giving it to those who have been staying here for a long time. There are those who have moved in yesterday, a short while back etc. We cannot give it to everybody like that.”

12:06 pm: Interview with Aslam, affected resident

Aslam (Resident, renter, whose house has been demolished, who has been give a chitti):

“I have been living here since 92. My house has been demolished and I’ve been given a piece of paper, I haven’t received any ID card.

Out of the 1512 original allottes, there are 500 original allottees living here now. Rent is anywhere between Rs. 150-250. 8 days back is when they told us they were going to demolish this. We weren’t given much notice, only told that there is a court order to demolish so we are going to demolish your houses. Last week, when they came, we tried telling them that children have their exams, and they relented, but yesterday they came back again. We’ve requested for time till May-June. But we have to fulfill the court order, so we have to demolish.”

“They even demolished my house which was locked at that time. All my belongings were inside, we hadn’t vacated the house and there was a lock on the door, and they still demolished it. They told us that they would be giving us a biometric card but I haven’t received it. There is a shamiana where a bunch of officials are inspecting the papers of allottees and confirming if any of them would be entitled to resettlements but they are not issuing biometric cards for the renters.”

12:15 pm Interview with Aslam Part 2

We’ve heard that Garudachari Uday has purchased this place. So there’s a project for EG mall out of which 5 acres will be reserved for allottees in 1512 houses. The court order says that once the people have been evicted, the new quarters will be built by the Garuda group. Because kids have to go to school, we’ve asked for time, people go to work nearby, the schools are nearby, once their exams are over, we can leave and go. Right now we are looking out for other places to rent, but we are not able to get a places. Because they’ve told us to leave either today or tomorrow, we are unable to find a new place to live given such short notice. I do painting work, there is no proper help for us. The biometric card supposedly has the Slum Boards number, the card will have a family photo.

K: Have they given you any documents regarding the move to Sulikunte?
A: There is no document, only words. They took a few people, showed them a random piece of land, and said this is the place, but we don’t know if that is even indeed the place they plan to move us. We’ve been seeing the same thing for over 10 yrs now. Even when the buildings were good, they said “we will relocate here’ ‘we will relocate you there” Even as only section became bad, all the blocks were demolished, even those that were good. They said ‘for now, we’ll build sheds for you and construct proper houses for you later, within the 5 acres.”
I’ve been living here right from the beginning, since ’92.

Woman: What did they give you? Any card?

A: Nothing. To the original allottees, they gave a card. And a cheque.
A woman pipers in: And us?
A: Do you have proof of ownership? (Yes) Then show it to them, get your house demolished and claim your cheque. (Did they evict you) What evict, they tore down my house. Belongings are inside (who’s done it).
Now see who comes.
Woman: Who, Garuda mall guys?
Slum board people will come.

A: Whatever proof of residence document gets signed on, saying that your house has been demolished, mentions the date and time of the signature.

K: Have you been given the card? Is it the same of the biometric card?
No. The biometric card will have the family photo. They took our docs, family photo, stating the names of all the family members, saying that this is what will be used to get us residence in Sulikunte. We also have a BPL Card and Aadhar card too.
K: Are there any groups who are fighting for you?
A: There was this Ambedkar Sangha, they’ve also become silent now and are nowhere to be found.

K: Are there just Dalits here?
A: No, all castes live here. (Sound of demolition in the background)

12:09 pm Interview with Nera, affected resident

Woman: All my belongings were thrown out. My house number was written on a piece of papaer and given back to me. I don’t know what to do now.
Some people who have bought these houses from the original allottees, they’re still not clear whether they’ll receive the compensation due to the allottees.
(Shows proof that she had bought this house)

The person with the sale deed could have sold it to somebody else, he could have gotten a power of attorney to that person for the house. Those who have this power of attorney, they will not be given accommodation here, but will receive houses in Sulikunte)

K: Have they planned for any temporary accomodation for you all?

No we’ve not been given any temporary housing, we will have to find a place outside.

12:21 pm Aslam – Interview with Aslam Part 3

“Yesterday they gave the biometric card first, then demolished the house first, today they just demolished. Yesterday, 300 houses were evicted and 600 today.

There are good chances that all the houses will be vacated by tomorrow.”

12:35 pm Activists argue with B.T. Ramesh

12:36 pm Activists argue with B.T. Ramesh Part 2 and