Today was Republic Day in India. It’s a day commemorating the day that India’s constitution became the primary document that lays out the laws and of the state and the rights of its people. It is rather ironic, then, that the remaining residents of Ejipura were expelled from their homes today.
The bulldozers kept churning the soil today, flattening it out, but there were a few families who held out inside the former slum. These families were being encircled as the bulldozers continued establishing new piles of rubble and dirt to form a barricade. There was also a fence that workers began to erect around the property.
The last family inside was holding out for compensation they were promised by Maverick Holdings, the company that owns Garuda Mall (the mall provided security at the main checkpoint to get inside the area). They were entitled to 5,000 rupees, but from that had to pay 1,200 for the truck to move their belongings (the lowest down payment for a new place to live is at least 10,000 rupees). In the end, they received their money, but they had no idea where they would go. Many of the families left are Tamil and so not from here; they don’t necessarily have family in the area or in the state.
Once the last family inside left Maverick sent one of its employees to expel the remaining families who have been living in the water pipes. Some of these families do not have proper papers and so while activists were busy feeding people or helping the last family steadfastly holding out for their money, the Maverick employee lowered the compensation amount to 2,000 rupees. Others signed the papers without receiving any money at all, although they were promised funds. All the people who signed papers when receiving money also lessened their chances in court.
Scuffles broke out between activists and the police today, of course after the journalists from The Hindu and The Times of India left the scene. Police brought a large bus and started walking around with sticks to intimidate people. It seemed as though negotiations would yield a return to the 5,000 rupee promise, but in the end most families settled. Fortunately, the residents of Koramangala, the neighboring area, collected funds to help families pay down payments on new housing for families who found viable places to resettle.
Many of the families who left are now in Sarjapur. Some have been locked out of housing they paid a down payment for. And there is no water or electricity there.
It is troubling that there is so little national or international media covering this story. The world is so quick to cover a horrifically brutal rape in Delhi, but not the mass expulsion of a community that has lived in these homes for decades.
And check out these videos that give a sense of what has been happening and how the residents of Ejipura feel about their expulsion: