They live in fear of the dark, while they nurse the wounds inflicted on their bodies and mind by the Delhi Police on Monday night. The children show the spent tear gas shells used on them by the police, while the elders fear a repeat of the horror.
Kathputli Colony, a slum over 40-years-old near Shadipur Depot is inhabited by hundreds of puppeteers, musicians, dancers and other artists from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The residents narrate the tale of atrocities meted out to them by the police following an alleged fight between a group of boys from the colony and Pandav Nagar.
They do not fail to add that they are being victimised so that they shift to the transit camp at Anand Parbat and accept the Delhi Development Authority’s plan for redevelopment of the colony. They add that the DDA did not carry out a proper survey and left many out of the scheme.
Following the incident on Monday night, as many as 10-15 people of the Kathputli Colony are in police custody at Ranjit Nagar.
Vijay Bhat, a puppeteer, says he saw the boys fighting around 10-30 p.m. Claiming ignorance about the reason behind the fight, he says the police entered the scene around 11-30 p.m. and instead of resolving the matter, they lathi-charged everyone. The metal doors of their houses were also broken down by the police.
Dileep Pradhan, the ‘pradhan’ of the colony, shows his broken fingers and injury marks and blood clots over his back and arms. He says the police went about thrashing women, children, teenagers and senior citizens. Deepak, 15, sits near him with a swollen eye covered in bandage. “I was sleeping when the police came. They forcibly opened the door and dragged me out. Then they beat me up with lathis and slapped me too. I was taken to the police station in the police vehicle. A senior cop asked me why we didn’t shift to the transit camp at Anand Parbat,” he says.
He says the transit camp is in a bad state, made of cheap materials, which could be easily destroyed in a fire.
“Last year, the camp was damaged by winds, how can we stay there when it cannot stand the winds? We do not know if the DDA will give us the houses for free. How can we shift? There are some 3,500 families living here. We have asked the DDA to give us the land and we will build our homes ourselves. It will save them the money too,” says Dileep Bhat.
Puran Bhat, a puppeteer who was honoured by the President, and other slum dwellers say that the police instead of resolving the fight created terror and forced them to move to the transit camp. Having spent more than 40 years in the colony, they refuse to leave come what may and term the few families that shifted to the transit camp as “greedy and traitors”.
At the other end of the colony, women sit in groups fearing similar police action again.
Repeated attempts to reach DCP (Central) for comments remained unsuccessful.
Imarti, a woman in her 30s, recalls the night when the police banged on her door and beat her up in the presence of her three minor children. “They said they will come back,” she says.
Another woman named Bimla, whose husband went missing 17 years ago, says she had a tough time facing the action while trying to somehow save her children. Another young man, who is soon to get married, alleges the policeentered his house, beat him up and took away whatever he had collected for his wedding.
As mediapersons came and went, the slum dwellers shared their tales and pictures of their family and friends injured in the police action.
Hemlata, a social worker associated with NGO named Labour Education and Development Society also reached the spot. She says the NGO will take up the matter under the SC-ST Atrocities Act.
Manira Chaudhary, a young documentary filmmaker from Jamia Millia Islamia, also went about covering the scene as part of her short film on forcible eviction from the colony. She says she also volunteers every week to work for the inhabitants of Kathputli Colony.