Comparing Malls

The first time I went to Ejipura and witnessed the displacement of the Dalit community by Maverick Holdings in collusion with the BBMP (Bangalore’s municipal authority), I couldn’t help compare the situation to what I have witnessed in Palestine. Recently UNRWA published a series of statistics on how Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes affects Palestinians (see a few of the charts below). Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.39 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.50 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.58 PMIn Palestine having Israelis bulldoze your home is quotidian.

It is rare to read news sources that monitor this, like al-Akhbar or Electronic Intifada, on any given day and not see news about home demolitions. It is a part of the ongoing nakba. Just this week al-Akhbar reported of two Palestinian homes being demolished in the West Bank. Here is a video of this most recent demolition. It looks quite similar to the demolitions taking place here in Bangalore.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YmoTgH_XQ0]

Just as Palestinians steadfastly work toward their goal of returning home, and increasingly use boycott as a tactic to achieve this result, increasingly the residents of Ejipura are as well. In Ejipura this week there was a protest and there is a desire to boycott Garuda Mall as a strategy to achieve justice for the people so they may be granted the replacement homes they were promised by their government.

The root of the problem and the context differ, of course. In Palestine it is colonists uprooting indigenous people to steal land and build their colonies. Just this week 90 new homes have been approved for building in Jerusalem (for those who think that 50% of Jerusalem belongs to Jewish colonists this is what you call “East Jerusalem,” although for those who are anti-colonial Jerusalem has no dividing line). In 1948 Palestine the ongoing nakba continues as Israel continues to cleanse itself of Palestinians, especially in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the southern portion of the state.

But all of uprooting for the sake of a mall made me recall one of my dear friends’ villages, Malha, which is a neighborhood of Jerusalem. My friend is a refugee, although many of the original homes and a mosque (which seems to be used as a house by an Israeli Jewish colonist) remain. But on this land is also a large shopping mall.  Her uprooting was not for the creation of the mall, but its presence on her family’s land is disturbing nevertheless. Below are photographs I took of the mall as well as the beautiful, traditional stone Palestinian homes.

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It may not be the same cause or the same context, but uprooting and homelessness whether for a land grab or a shopping center is immoral and must be resisted via boycott or other means necessary to achieve justice.

Here are a few more recent articles on Ejipura:

Ejipura Demolition: Hundreds of Protestors Court Arrest

Photostory: Ejipura Bulldozed

Maverick’s Project in Bangalore: Il-legalizing the Poor

Of a City of Pieces and the Importance of the Larger Community

The Relativity of Gratitude

Violence Continues Against EWS Residents, Activists Say

On the Periphery: Ejipura and the Fence

It rained in Ejipura yesterday after I left. Hadn’t thought at all about inclement weather given the climate here in Bangalore. But it seems that passing out better tarps (most families are making due with old plastic political banners torn down around the neighborhood) and raincoats.

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There is a metal fence around the entire perimeter of the old slum in Ejipura now. It’s hard to see inside. Most of the same families who have been living on its periphery still remain, steadfastly waiting to acquire suitable housing that they can afford. 
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Most of the families left behind are Tamil. And yesterday there were Tamil posters plastered about Ejipura comparing the Indian government officials’ responsibility in the uprooting of Ejipura residents to what the massacre the Sri Lankan government perpetrated against the Tamils in 2009.

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Before they sealed off the area, the last group of slum housing, these made mostly of zinc roofs and walls, were demolished. I couldn’t get inside to see, but the mosque is on the edge of that former neighborhood so I took this photograph from inside to give a view of the rubble. Interestingly, when I was doing Sunday morning food distribution a couple of weeks ago a church group was the donor. And they happened to bring their own volunteers with them. Many of the families from this last area to be demolished–before it was demolished–came seeking food. One of the nuns got quite angry at the people and tried to shoo them away. I got in an argument with her and the other church people because they were clearly in need, clearly hungry, and I head heard that they were next. I remember saying, so they can only eat your food once they no longer have a roof over their head? And now it has come to pass it seems.

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Today there is a big march taking place as I write. I intended to do this prior to the demonstration, but I didn’t have time. But here are the list of demands articulated by the current and former residents of Ejipura:

Grounds of Protest 

  • Why is land earmarked for purpose of housing Economically Weak Sections (EWS) being used for the purpose of private profit and commercial exploitation?
  • Why has the BBMP chosen Maverick Holdings when they have already committed fraud by constructing Garuda Mall on public land meant for a parking lot?
  • 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?
  • The concession agreement between Maverick and BBMP clearly lays down that it is Maverick’s responsibility to relocate residents during Implementation Period at its own expense. Why has this not been done?
  • While EWS Quarters stood on 11.37 acres of land, how is 15.64 acres of land being handed over to Maverick Holdings?
  • 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?

WE DEMAND                                                                                                                                           -Cancel the PPP and use the EWS land for its original purpose                                                                                          -Rebuild houses for all erstwhile residents immediately on the same land
-Prosecute those responsible for brutal evictions and collapse of the EWS quarters
-Order an independent judicial enquiry into the illegal diversion of public lands
 

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Here are some important articles to read to understand more about what is going on in Ejipura:

How Did My House Become Yours, Ask Allottees

From Shanty Houses to Shanty Lives: The Story of an Eviction

Ejipura: Living in the Shadows of the Maverick Fence

From Nonadanga to Ejipura: The Urban Battleground

Ejipura Workers Back Off After Evictee’s Immolation Threat

Steps to Prevent Ejipura Crisis from Getting Worse

Finally, you can sign a petition by clicking here to protest the building of another Garuda Mall on the land that belongs to the Ejipura residents.

Celebrating Republic Day with Expulsions in Ejipura

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Also see these articles for more about what’s happening in Ejipura:

Ejipura Evictions: People Treated Like Dogs and Thrown Out of Houses

Bulldozers and Pipes: Life Takes on a Different Meaning

Youth Pour Out to Help Ejipura Demolition Affected

Rights Group Appeal to International Bodies

Ejipura Residents Struggling to Find Alternative Accommodation

And check out these videos that give a sense of what has been happening and how the residents of Ejipura feel about their expulsion:

Home demolitions in Ejipura

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I received a text message today asking me to come to Ejipura today. They needed volunteers to help deliver food and blankets and they needed people to help move the belongings from people’s homes away from the bulldozers. Homes were being demolished.

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The home demolitions had been going on for a few days. The activists who were attempting to intervene in this process through demonstrations were arrested–21 of them–for 2 days, just enough time to make sure they could not interfere with the destruction. When I arrived the entire landscape looked like a war zone. Homes razed to the ground. All that was left was the rubble and the flooring where the houses used to be. Many of the families who were able to, who had family elsewhere, left. But those who had nowhere to go or no means to go remained. Others stayed as an act of resistance. Some were making new, temporary homes in water pipes. And by the end of the day the slum relocated to the curb on the main road.DSC00074

Unfortunately, none of this was unfamiliar to me. I felt like I was back in Palestine watching Israeli colonists raze Palestinian homes to the ground, a regular occurrence in Palestine (see some of my blog posts on this here, here, here, and here). In Palestine it’s obvious why the settler-colonists want to destroy homes: to steal more land that they can use to build more colonies. This has been true since before the Zionists stole Palestine in 1948.DSC00085

In India it’s an Indian government demolishing Indian homes. In this scenario, a man (owner of Garuda Mall) bought the plot of land where the 3,000 families have resided–some for as long as 35 years–to build a shopping mall (just what every city needs: another shopping mall). In theory, half the land will be for the mall and half will be to build new homes for the community residing in Ejipura. But how long will that take? And what should these families do in the mean time? It also seems a bit unlikely that this scheme will be seen through given that the same man who bought the land also bought the judge hearing the case and the mosque adjacent to the slum. As a result there were some families who took cash and relocated. But there were many more who refused cash or food from the buyer or the mosque on principle.

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As we wandered about the former slum, people shared their stories. Many of these people are Indians without proper identity papers (this is an issue here for many people and it inhibits their access to all kinds of social services). It reminds me of non-ID Palestinians who carried an extra burden after the Lebanese army destroyed Nahr el Bared refugee camp.

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One woman who was rather gutsy when salvaging her remains underneath and beside the bulldozer that was skirting her home seemed to have a set of skeleton keys peeking out from beneath her sari, reminding me of the keys that Palestinians carry after their homes were destroyed during the nakba in 1948.DSC00131

Little by little families at the edge of the slum prepared to move their belongings in the late afternoon. We helped some pile them into auto rickshaws. Others just wanted them on the curb, some choosing to make a home at the bus stop. Others just moved them a few feet away to make space for the bulldozer destroying their home. There was one hold out family that refused to move their items and sat and watched as it made a path next to their house.DSC00162

Throughout the day children found spaces to play with salvaged toys or with the rubble. Young girls imitated their mothers, sweeping away the dust from the digging. DSC00173

It was heart wrenching to see so many families displaced and rendered homeless at once. Tonight they will spend another night out in the cold with no real shelter.  The elements already got to one woman, Rosemary, who died yesterday.DSC00181

Here are a few articles about the demolitions for those who want to read more:

More Houses Raised at Ejipura in Bangalore

Hundreds Rendered Homeless in Ejipura

HC Refuses Urgent Hearing of Petitions of Ejipura Residents

Ejipura Residents Lose the Roof Over Their Head

Seven Propositions and One Challenge for Ejipura Residents