Out in the open

The children you see in this picture belong to Nehru Camp where we have been running a primary centre for over 3 years. Like all children they love to play, laugh, have fun and study. All of them cleared their examinations and have been promoted to the next class and there was great celebrations!

Their joy was short lived as two days ago 1000 shops and homes from the area were razed to the ground to make way for a five foot high wall that will encircle the three slum clusters of the area to hide them from the middle class colonies across the road.

The 2 km wall will encircle the three slum colonies of the area where there are over 10 000 homes. As I read the words of the article my blood ran cold and as I write these words I find it hard to contain my rage and my deep sense of shame as I unfortunately belong to the class of the so called perpetrators of this contemptuous act and my mind cannot but go back to ghettos and yellow stars.

All my life savings have been used to purchase this flat. For 22 years I have lived with the stink from open defecation, and constant over-crowding from blocked roads.” says a resident of a neighbouring flat. “I feel bad for them,” says another whose own domestic help lives in Bhumiheen Camp. “They should be given an alternative home immediately.”

Post the new demolition and the repulsive wall, gutters will now flow directly into homes. Many of you may not know what such slums look like. Though to some of us they may seem an eyesore and an image from hell but they are far from that. They have been homes to people who have come to this city sometimes more than 2 or 3 decades ago. They have been built and nurtured with the same care we give to our homes. The residents are as much citizens of this city as we are and have the same voting rights. They are not aliens from another planet but those who work for us in more ways than one and give us much comfort. They have the same dreams for their children that we have for ours. They hurt, laugh, face problems and celebrate achievements just like we do. The ony difference is that they have been let down by the city's so called administration and by the total lack of compassion that seems to have become the trademark of this city!

Everyone seems to think that hey should be relocated and given alternative accomodation. Everyone has been feeling that for a long time but what has the administration done? The DDA
claims “The wall is a temporary arrangement to offer protection to flat owners” Protection from what I ask. "It (the wall) should be at least eight foot high, and built either with bricks, or grills and mesh. There should also be fewer outlets" retorts another. "And what if there’s a fire?” asks a slum resident. “It will be much harder to escape if we are contained from all sides.”

I am thoroughly confused and at a complete loss. What are we talking about. Are we not all citizens of a same country, protected by the same constitution and laws. Who are protecting against whom. What is this new caste system that seems to have surreptitiously slinked into our social fabric and whose denominator is money. Is this also applicable to the legal system as the said wall is beeing erected on a High Court order in response to a Public Interest Litigation.

The wall will be completed on may 21st!

What a sad day it will be. Imagine the hurt and anger of the people condemned to live within that wall and the resentment that will take seed in young minds that may turn into violence and despair.

Till now invisible barriers divided the two Indias. With this wall the divide is out in the open.

Look at the children in the picture once again. Do we need to be protected from them?