PUDR notes with concern the intimidation of the residents of Kathputli colony by the Delhi police since the night of 18 December. While Police presence was visible in and around Kathputli colony for the past few days, the police were deployed in large numbers (approx. 250 police personnel) on 18th night and barricades around the colony were erected. The next morning, on 19 December, DDA officials along with the police went to get the signatures of some residents who have decided to shift to a transit camp at Anand Parbat. However there are also reports that the DDA officials were trying to pressurise other residents to sign as well. While the majority of the residents of the colony are resisting this attempt, the heavy police presence in the colony is creating an atmosphere of fear among the residents. Electricity and water connections were cut in the morning but restored by evening.
Kathputli colony, near Shadipur, is home to around 3700 families of puppeteers, and other street artistes. In 2008 the DDA conducted a survey of the land with the intention of selling it to Raheja Developers for development purposes. The plan includes an in-site rehabilitation of JJ clusters at Kathputli Colony along with construction of luxury apartments.
The agreement between Rahejas and the DDA was formalized in 2008 but it is only in 2009 that residents came to know about these plans. Thus there has been a systematic attempt to exclude the residents from this process. While the DDA designated 2641 families as eligible for accommodation the residents through their own survey have found over 3700 families as eligible. These families possess documents required under the DDA resettlement policy. Initially the DDA managed to get the consent of some families to move to a transitory camp in Anand Parbat for the duration of the project. However the majority of the Kathputli colony residents resisted the move citing problems in the camp like lack of sanitation. The residents also pointed out that the provisions for them in the plan are inadequate since the DDA has not taken into consideration the housing requirements specific to street artistes thus seriously endangering their livelihood. (Refer to PUDR statement on Kathputli colony, dated 25 February 2014).
Furthermore only a small portion of the land is meant for housing Kathputli colony residents. More than 4/5th of the land is devoted to setting up of commercial centres and luxury apartments. This is clearly in violation of the Master Plan 2021 for land use. Moreover this model of urban land usage is nothing but development for the rich at the cost of the poor. There are also serious questions on why the DDA sold land measuring 5.216 hectares to Raheja developers for a paltry sum of 6 crores which is only 5% of prevailing market value.
The residents of the colony filed a writ petition (W.P.C. 1290/2014 and CM APPL. 3834/2014) in the High Court in February 2014. The Court ordered all genuine families to be included in the list of beneficiaries. According to the Order of the Hon’ble High Court, genuine families are all resident families possessing documents dated before 31-01-2014 and they are to be included in the list of beneficiary families by the DDA. Only one document was required to prove eligibility. But DDA has declared most families as undeserving for the lack of documents in their survey. The Court gave orders to improve the conditions at the transit camp and for the DDA to respond to the violations of the Master Plan 2021 found in the plan prepared by DDA and Raheja Developers. Finally the Court order also clearly prohibited any forcible eviction of the residents of Kathputli colony.
The attempt by the police along with the DDA officials to intimidate Kathputli colony residents is a clear violation of the Court order. This attempt at intimidating residents is not new. On the night of 11th/12th August 2014 the police entered the colony on some pretext and beat up colony residents, injuring many in the process. They also arrested 21 people on false cases.
Today when residents of Kathputli colony fear police action again, it is important to remember that in 2014 when police atrocities were committed on the residents of Kathputli colony an F.I.R. was registered immediately against the policemen who sexually assaulted the women of Kathputli colony. Nothing came out of it. The heavy police presence since the night of 18 December is reminder of that violence and injustice.
While the police left around 6 PM on 19th evening, the situation remains tense for the colony residents. It is essential to understand that these people are not ‘encroachers’ but have a right to land and shelter.
PUDR demands that:
- The DDA and the police stop harassment and intimidation of the Kathputli colony residents
- Every resident of Kathputli colony be given space in the new accommodations being built for colony residents at Kathputli.
- The houses meant for colony residents should be built taking into account the specific nature of their jobs as puppeteers and street artistes.
- The living conditions at the transit camp at Anand Parbat should be improved.
- As per the High Court order the DDA and Rahejas adhere to the guidelines given in the Delhi Master Plan 2021 for land use.
- The grievances of the Kathputli colony residents be heard and they should not be excluded from decisions affecting their lives and livelihood.
Anushka Singh and Cijo Joy