Utter confusion prevailed on Friday in the Ejipura housing colony for economically weaker sections as bulldozers hired by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) once again entered the area with the police in tow. Unsure about the target of the earthmoving machinery, many residents started running helter-skelter even as others stood their ground and entered into verbal duels with the officials.
“I don’t know if they will demolish my hut this time. Where will I go if they do?” wailed M. Syeda (40) who has three children and a disabled husband to feed. At least two dozen huts were demolished in Friday’s operation.
Demolitions in the colony have been happening on a piecemeal basis over the last few months with similar waves of police and BBMP officials entering the area and retreating after razing a few dozen huts.
“Each time they come, we don’t know which line of huts they will target,” explained Mutthu Kumar (37), one of the residents of this colony, which is majorly comprised of Dalits and minorities.
The 15 acres and 22 guntas of land on which the shantytown is located is slated for the construction of a mall as well as higher quality tenements for the original residents. As part of a joint development agreement that the BBMP entered into with Maverick Holdings and Investment Pvt. Ltd., half of the land will be used for the construction of 1,512 EWS apartments. The other half will be used by Maverick Holdings to construct the mall. Eviction of residents for the project has been stalled several times since its inception with residents and rights groups staging protests, alleging that it smacks of a land scam.
Even as tension prevailed at one end of the colony on Friday, another group of BBMP officials continued to issue biometric cards to the residents under a makeshift tent. These cards, the officials said, will help the evicted residents lay claim to the new houses that are planned as a replacement for the present tin-roof structures.
The main concern of the residents, however, is what they will do until the new houses are built. “Some officials are saying the new houses will take a year. Others are saying it will take three years. We are scared and confused,” said B. Selvi (65).
Some of the residents here are original allottees while others are tenants of the original allottees. The replacement flats on the same spot are planned for original allottees whereas the tenants, most of who have been living here for the last decade, have been assured of a colony at Sarjapur.
As the demolition progressed in Ejipura, one group of residents trooped to the BBMP headquarters and staged a snap protest. “In view of the upcoming school and college examinations, we want the BBMP to give the residents another two months to vacate,” said Amruthraj Isaac, one of the activists who led the agitation.