New Delhi: Rubeda Khatur, a lean and weak woman in her 20s, carrying the looks of much older person, starts screaming as soon as she spots anyone with a camera around her half demolished hut at Shakur Basti.
She asks, “Where were these people when my hut was being demolished?” She calms down when people around her tell that they were not government people but media persons who could take her voice to the government.
She tells gently, but with a pain in her voice, that police came with bulldozers and smashed everything into pieces, from the sack of rice to the things she was collecting for her daughter’s wedding.
Her tiny hut hardly appeared to cover an area of 6×6-foot. Hers is a family of five with two boys (five and seven year olds), a 14-year old daughter and a rabbit. They have no blankets. The original condition they were living was absolutely pathetic; imagine the present one after the demolition.
She says, “Do din khana dene se kya hoga, kal se vaise hi sab chalega”. (Nothing will come out from providing food for two days, it will be the same from tomorrow.) She simply says that she did not have any hopes from the authorities.
Apparently, people have been living in the demolished Shakur Basti locality for decades. Once in a while, governments suddenly wake up and demolish the things and then the media wakes up and rants about it.
It is a situation where locals feel that they are being used. It is one of those days when media gets happy that they have a news to run 24×7 (with the touch of ‘humanity’ as if they are seriously concerned!) and, suddenly, everybody becomes a Seymour Hersh. Opposition is happy that they have the chance to go after the government.
Railways officials said that they had given the notice. When asked about it, locals told NewsGram that the officials did notify but they (locals) had nowhere to go in absence of some sort of rehabilitation plan.
AAP workers distribute caps, Kejriwal continues with usual blame game
The laughable irony of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, who made big promises during campaigns that not a single jhuggi will be demolished, is (again) blaming Modi for it. In a series of tweets, he went after the Centre showing himself as some messiah who would wipe out the pain of the Shakur Basti slum dwellers by suspending officials and initiating an inquiry.
What skipped his mind amid his ‘humane concerns’ is the fact that it was his job as the CM to ensure safety and rehabilitation of such people.
Question is- what is the responsibility that a CM holds and how does tweeting solve the problem?
While a six-month old baby died, allegedly, due to the demolition, AAP was busy trying to show its presence. Scores of AAP workers were seen showing their presence with the AAP topi while roaming around in the locality as the kids playing gilly danda also donned the same AAP caps.
When NewsGram asked 7-year old Nisar, who was wearing a cap and running with an AAP flag, he said he got the cap and flag in morning as he remarked, “kejriwal hi unko ghar dilwayega.” (Only Kejriwal will get them houses.)
AAP seems to have this weird target of letting the people know that they were there as they continued their topi-distribution.
Delhi’s ruling party’s agenda of ‘showing presence’ coupled with Kejriwal’s political opportunism is an insult to the people who are suffering with no solution in sight.
Where should they go?
Most of the locals work at the railway cement godown nearby. Cement is mixed in the air and, as a result, the media and leaders were seen covering their faces. Nobody realized the plight of these people who continue to live in this condition, breathing and bathing in cement every moment where they find it hard to stand for even 30 minutes.
It is true that the land belongs to the Indian Railways and these shanties are illegal but what other options do they have? Elections come and with it come the promises of proper houses and rehabilitations; however, after the results there is nobody to even look back.
It is a shame that we see these people’s lives when a tragedy like this takes place. Otherwise, their existence is very much forgotten amid ignorance.
Today everybody wanted to talk to them, take their pictures, talk about their lives. But these ‘non-existent entities’ are used to this trickery of media and politicians. They know that the coming night they’ll be cold in the weather and apathy, and nobody will be there to warm them with blankets or comforting words.
Mohammed Asghar, another local, demanded that the PM must make a visit, “PM should visit us as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi visited today and CM Arvind Kejriwal visited last night.”
There was chaos when the food and blankets were delivered to the people. AAP took the credit for blankets and Congress for food. BJP was yet to reach the spot.
The problem is that nobody is still listening to the locals. They want permanent solution to their plight. They do not want food or blankets being distributed or the affiliation of AAP’s topi. Their basic need is that of a place where their whatever-they-have is not demolished every now and then.
It is a whole different debate whether they should have this land or not, but if the government made some promises then it becomes their duty to, at least, remember them.
“Give it a human touch, talk to that little girl”, a cameraman told his reporter.
The little girl looked in confusion at the camera and started answering. Minutes later, she was back to playing amid the ruins as the cameraman-reporter duo got busy debating the usefulness of the ‘humane’ bite.
Everything was back to the same ‘normal’.