(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 20, 2011
When the State Turned
into a Barbarian
N S Arjun
AROUND 450 families living in Hyderabad, mostly tribals, dalits and most backward classes who migrated from the adjoining districts in search of livelihood, are undergoing a painful experience in the aftermath of the barbarian actions of the State machinery. With their meagre shelters flattened by tens of bulldozers and all their “assets” and hopes crushed in the pre-dawn swoop on February 14, these daily wage earners have been living on the roads – the women, the old, the infants and all. Those who desperately tried to resist the eviction were brutally caned by the massive police force mobilised for the demolition job.
These 450 families have been living in the 4.1 acre vacant government lands in Singareni colony of Saidabad area since around 15 years. A private society claims that it bought the land from the government some 25 years ago and sought eviction of these families and restoration of the land. In the long process of litigation, the court has ruled in favour of the society but asked the government to follow “due process” before evicting these families. Armed with the court order, the government tried to evict these poor families on November 27, 2010 itself. But the huge forces mobilised for this purpose had to beat a hasty retreat following the death of a hut dweller due to heart attack after seeing the force. They decided to come back another day.
Come back they did, and this time with a barbaric plan to evict these families. The elementary norm of giving an eviction notice was dispensed with in order to prevent organised resistance. Even as the hut dwellers and those in pucca single room constructed houses were sleeping after a hard day's labour, the municipal authorities, the district administration and the police launched a blitzkrieg at 5 in the morning. They cut the power supply and moved in with JCBs and bulldozers. The police started dragging the inmates from the huts and dwellings, beating them up and throwing out few of their belongings. Even as the inmates were gathering their wits, the bulldozers crushed whatever hard-earned “assets” remained in the dwellings. Giri, an 18 year old Vaddera caste boy, showed the crushed plastic bucket and other things, with tears in his eyes. Children's books and clothes were strewn around crushed beyond utility.
The barbarity was just unfolding. The demolition mob decided that the best way to get rid of plastic sheet covered huts was to burn them, and a few plain clothes among them set fire to the huts. Later, they had the gall to report to the media that the hut dwellers themselves set fire to their huts in order to prevent their eviction! As the youth and others tried to resist this brutality, they were targeted and beaten mercilessly. Ramesh, a 23 year old lambada tribal from Mahbubnagar district, is an auto driver living in one of the huts. Seeing the barbarity, he tried to stop the police from beating up the youth. He was dragged away by the police into a vacant compound and beaten black and blue. Showing his wounds, Ramesh says that not only is he living on the road, now he cannot even drive his auto to earn his daily bread. Parveena Sultana presents one of the many poignant scenes in the fallout of this barbarity. This 30 year old Muslim woman was discharged from a hospital on 13 February after a major neck surgery. Even she was not spared in the war launched against these aam admi by the Congress state government. She is lying exposed to all the dust and debris post demolition.
The farce of providing of alternative accommodation to the evicted became apparent when they were taken to the site of relocation, Nandanavanam in Ranga Reddy district. The local people there, led by the Congress MLA, declined to let them into the land, saying they need that for construction of a college in the future. That was the level of preparation by the Hyderabad district administration. That all talk of alternative accommodation was just to fool the hut dwellers became clear when the joint collector, Smitha Sabharwal, said post demolition that they had not given any assurance of providing temporary accommodation. She however assured the evicted that in six to eight months time, the construction of permanent shelters for them in Nandanavanam would begin! Would the joint collector madam understand what it takes to live on the roads with kids and parents while scouting for a daily wage? If she knew, she wouldn't have led this barbaric operation against the poor. This attitude of the administration against the poor is in stark contrast to that when dealing with the rich and corrupt. Thousands of acres of prime land in Hyderabad and Ranga Reddy districts worth thousands of crores of rupees has been gifted away at paltry sums to the industrialists-politician-bureaucrat lobbies. But when it comes to providing 30 square yards of land for the poor, an entire military style operation is planned to thwart it. The so-called aam admi governments would be living in fools paradise if they think the poor cant see through this contrast. They only need to visit Singareni colony to see the rage of the aam admi.
CPI(M) Stands in
Defence of the Poor
Immediately after hearing the news of demolition of huts in Singareni colony, CPI(M) Central Committee member P Madhu and other city leaders rushed to the site to prevent the action. The police took them into custody at the entrance to the site itself. Later, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and state secretary B V Raghavulu rushed to the site and met the evicted. He consoled them but more than that he gave confidence to them that this can be fought back. He unfurled the Red flag on the ruins of the CPI(M) local office in the locality that was first demolished by the administration. Raghavulu told the assembled poor that this hoisting of Red flag symbolised the resolve to resist the eviction. Raghavulu toured the entire area and saw first hand the brutalities inflicted on the poor.
Later, addressing the poor he asked the government whether it considers that the poor have a right to live or not. How can they be so cruel to the most vulnerable sections of our society, he questioned. He demanded that the government should pay compensation to the evicted for damaging their houses and household articles. He told the evicted people to remain in the same land until the government gave alternative constructed houses. Later, leaders of other opposition parties started visiting the place and assuring the evictees of justice to them. However, the local corporator belonging to TDP and the MLA belonging to MIM are yet to be seen anywhere near.