Support a Child’s Education

October 19, 2008 at 5:38 pm (Uncategorized)

We started working almost three years back. In the beginning, we didn’t have a clear idea as to how and where to start from. Our mentors asked us to think about some activities which can be initiated in the college. After some days, we met a few people; one of them was Dakxin Bajrange (co-founder of Budhan Theatre group). He told us about a basti in Maninagar, Ahmedabad and asked us to visit it some day. It was a place where people from the Denotified Tribes (DNT) live. We planned our visit and went there. When we reached there we saw a number of people sitting under a bridge like a one big family. That was our first interaction with our workplace – Maninagar basti.

After visiting the place we thought about various activities that can be started there and considering the need for education in the basti, we decided to start with an informal education program. The main aim of this program was to introduce education in the basti, bring the children living there to the level of mainstream children and finally transferring them to the regular schools. With these ideas and objectives in mind we started visiting the basti on weekends. We prepared a schedule and curriculum for the classes and implemented it.

Initially, we got a very good response from the people living there. A good number of children, 20 to 25, started attending our classes regularly. But then, slowly, they started losing interest and the numbers started to decline. There were times when we used to get just 3 to 4 students! We thought that this was the end of our education program, but we decided to continue our classes hoping some day the people would understand the importance of education and schooling.

After a dedicated effort of 1 year we were finally able to win the confidence of the people and were accepted in the basti. The change in performance and habits of their children forced them to rethink about their education. That was the time when they started sending their children to our classes enthusiastically. This elevated our hopes and we continued with our activities.

After completion of 2 years of our program, we thought it was time to transfer some of the students to the schools. We visited several schools in the vicinity and finalised two schools for our students. We admitted around 18 students in these schools. For a long time their parents, despite their minimal incomes, regularly paid the school fee. But after some time their education was becoming a burden for them and due to this some of them pulled out their children from the schools. This was a setback for us as many of our talented students were pulled out just because of non-availability of funds. But without giving up we talked with the parents and requested them to re-admit their children to the schools. We took the financial responsibility of these students.

Many parents are still paying their school fee regularly but there are still a lot of students who need financial help in order to complete their schooling. We are financing five students but our funds are limited and cannot cover all the students. It is impossible for their parents to fund their education as education is like a luxury which they cannot afford with their negligible income.

Through this article we want to request you to support us and these children in continuing their education. Your generous contributions would help our students to complete their education and move towards a better life.

We have created profiles (click) of our students with the details of their fee and background and attached some of them below for your reference. You may visit our website for the complete profiles of our students. For making any contribution or to know more about our activities you may contact our members.  [Home]


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Universal Declaration of Human Rights-Article II: Right to Equality – Ashwin Durga

October 19, 2008 at 4:14 pm (Blogroll)

In the June, 2008 issue, we introduced you to the Universal declaration of Human Rights and also took up a few issues related to Article-1 of this declaration. In the forthcoming issues, we will try and understand all the articles by means of case- studies and examples. This will help us empathise and connect better. In this issue, we will talk about the second Article.

Article 2: All people are entitled to rights without distinction based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, opinion, origin, property, birth or residency.

All human beings are born free but they grow up, inevitably, with a feeling of segregation. The divisions that exist are all man made, and are violently defended in the name of preserving religious identity or cultural diversity. Of course, cultural diversity is important. But in the guise of preserving it discrimination on various levels, individual as well as societal, is rampant, and the cause of unnecessary problems. Most conflicts today are because of segregation created by self and the society.

Apartheid in South Africa (past), communalism in India, the Israel – Palestine conflict for “property”, the ill- treatment of the aborigines of Australia and the Roma gypsy community of Europe are all examples of violation of this article. These are just a few of the many hundreds of cases. These are a few which completely violate the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

The article (2) is extremely broad, encompassing various aspects of people’s interaction with others. Let us rewind back to the “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” which took place in South Africa, 2001. This marked the coming together of more than 150 countries who are members of the United Nations, UN organizations and government organizations on this common agenda. This was supposed to be a significant chapter in the efforts of the UN, which has been trying hard to fight racial discrimination. But, unfortunately it slid into the background due to the 9/11 attacks which took place just days after this conference concluded.

The conference saw various issues discussed including the sources, the victims, the measures for prevention and the strategies required to overcome challenges in attaining the right to equality. At the end of the conference, a total of 160 states converged upon the final declaration. This declaration urges all governments, “who have not contributed to restoring the dignity of the victims to find appropriate ways to do so”. However, it does not call for the United Kingdom, and other former colonial powers, to pay reparations. Almost all countries recognized that racism was still prevalent and related intolerance still existed to a large extent and that they would have to work untiringly towards eliminating these obstacles. They came out with various strategies including involving other NGO’s, organizations working in the areas to be made part of the decision making process in major policies and providing access to education and health facilities without discrimination. This conference saw a huge participation from all countries and it was aimed to bring together a positive impact. We want to take this forward and make everyone aware of this.

Here, at Sambhav, the people who we work with, have also been discriminated due to their descent. Prior to 1952, there were communities who were classified as “criminal tribes”, and anyone belonging to these communities automatically became criminals! Though now the name has been modified to “de-notified tribes (DNT)”, the stigma still remains even after more than 50 years. But unfortunately along with the Criminal tribes Act of 1952, the government concurrently enacted a series of Habitual Offenders Acts. These Acts asked police authorities to investigate a suspect’s criminal tendencies and whether his occupation is “conducive to settled way of life”. Although the Habitual Offenders Acts has been banned, police forces around the country still persecute the De-notified and Nomadic Tribes in the same way on many cases. These tribes are regularly subjected to public humiliation, beatings and custodial deaths.

It will take time for the people to change their mind; but again, it is all of us who have to initiate this change. We need participation from all individuals in making our society free from any “man-made” barriers. We have to ensure justice for all and see that every individual is guaranteed his or her human rights. We believe that all people constitute one human family, however different their cultures may be.


[1] Human Rights Watch –




[5]    [Home]

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Armed Trouble – Ajeet Singh Shekhawat

October 19, 2008 at 3:50 pm (Blogroll)

India has never been in peace with its border states especially Jammu and Kashmir and Eastern and North Eastern states. We are frequently made to think about the prevailing anarchy in these states and quandary surrounding the basic rights provided to the natives of these parts owing to their separatist mentality.

These Border States have been in virtual control of army since independence because the governments seem to be unable to cope with twin pressure from both outside in the form of border tension with adjacent nations and from inside with the residents who with each passing day come up with new petition or Bandh to make it even more troublesome for government to deal with the problems of basic development of these states and thus we see the living standards of people going down and brewing discontent among the larger masses.

These states have to take the help of army frequently to keep the protests down and this very way doesn’t solves the problem much but for the fact that we don’t have any other way to handle all this anger. This is evident from the fact that the separatist movement in Jammu & Kashmir that grew strong past week that it sent questions and debates reverberating all round the country.

The way the army handles these situations is never the good but thanks to the “independent” media handles this coverage makes us think that army is all good but a closer unbiased microscopic look into the regions only suggests the opposite, with army emerging as a hideous villain that seem to have lost all the consideration for the common man.

State of affairs in North Eastern States is only going to worsen if Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is allowed to continue. AFSPA is the law which is prevailing in North Eastern states in one form or the other since 1956 to curb down naxal movement since 1958. Under this Act a non-commissioned army officer of the lowest rank has the power to shoot to kill anybody, to enter and destroy any building and to arrest anyone without a warrant. The officer needs no permission from a superior, is not answerable to anyone, and does not have to justify his action to anyone. Under this Act the affected people have no right to approach the court for redress. In effect, the Act has made the people subject to its extraordinary power second-class citizens of the country, who do not even on paper, enjoy the constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms supposed to be the due of every citizen.

In past months people in Manipur are trying to get national consensus on the thought of going to Supreme Court to get this brutal and anarchic law revoked but the brutalities of army just seem never ending with latest shameless act murder of local pastor Zamkholet Khongsai on 8’th July and subsequent rape and murder of 32 year old Manorama on 11’th July. The fact that should worry us more that when people finally decided to raise their voice against this latest inhuman act they were yet again handled in “Army” way as the central government gave them(Manipur government) all rights to curb the movement in whatever way they want. The demand for the repeal of the Act is an old one, and the current protests have a long history. In fact, for the past 45 months a young Manipuri woman, Irom Sharmila, has become a symbol of this struggle. Sharmila is on a fast-unto-death, demanding the withdrawal of this Act. She has been forcibly fed in hospital, under judicial custody, all this while.

We call ourselves a democratic nation but we seem to overlook the rudimentary definition of democracy which promises equal rights for all regions and people but our own democracy has put these people under virtual Martial act for five decades. Nobody can discredit Indian Army for all the great things it has done in safeguarding the nation against almost all attacks the country has faced but this act that makes army more of a plague than cure for these people and really needs to be revoked as there should be no room for such unjustifiable law which makes its citizens like refugees in their own country. Revocation of this law depends on all forms of media and especially on the television media which has to break the shackles of monotony because when it comes to army it only does the patronizing thing.

Indian Army is a great institution that has helped a long way in safeguarding the national integrity and many times has provided cover for jittery decision taking governments and nobody can deny these facts but these back spots really need to be removed. People in North Eastern states are really tired of this law and want to live free just like residents of other states and just like all other people they have high ambitions to take their state to heights of development and this law prevents them from doing all the great things that these people might be capable of and so should be revoked in all forms.     [Home]

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Walking the Talk – I

October 19, 2008 at 1:22 pm (Blogroll)

It has been some time since we started this initiative ‘Samvedna’. Since then, we have received valuable feedback from our readers who want to know more about our work. One of their concerns was – are we only raising questions about society or are we doing something for its betterment? Another recurring question was – How can we participate? This series of articles is meant to make the readers familiar with how the Sambhav Team is working towards “walking the talk”. We will also share with you who are we associated with, and the nature of our collaborations.

Some of our friends also suggested publishing of case studies to understand the scenarios we are facing. We definitely wanted to do this, but we had certain limitations. Most of the people with whom we are working don’t want to revisit such cases, rather they want to start fresh. Popularizing such cases amounts to victimizing them again and we don’t want to do this only for the sake of the publicity. So we decided to put our efforts and future plans in place of case studies. We have listed the problems and requirements we face in continuing and expanding the activities. Readers will also find mention of tasks which (s) he can perform to contribute.

Before starting, we would like to throw some light on our methodology. We are not involved in full-time social service as most of us have professional responsibilities. The names which we are mentioning below are the people who have been executing the social reform in one or the other form since long. We got in touch with them through field visits, which we perform as and when we come to know about any social activities happening in and around any of our members’ location. Once we ensure that the work being done is really the need of the hour, and is directed towards leading the society in a positive direction, we start involving ourselves increasingly and interact with them. This enables us to get an insight on their work, their strengths and weaknesses. Interaction also reveals details about their specific problems and requirements. Thereafter, we extend our efforts to help them meet their immediate requirements. Apart from this, we constantly communicate with them to make their organization more effective, self-sustainable and scalable. This has been our modus operandi for the last five months in which we have been seeking, understanding and then helping social activists and/or organizations.

This article will cover two groups:
1. Prashant [Sahayog] (click for details…)

  • Slum Education & Kid Library
  • Rehabilitating Drug Users & HIV+

2. Anjali Bose [Mahila Kalyan Samiti] (click for details…)

  • Bridge Education along with professional training
  • Awareness among Women

In this article we have tried to make you familiar with our recent activities. There is much to mention but due to lack of reading space and time, we will be covering the remaining activities and groups in upcoming issues. We have directly or indirectly mentioned the requirements of each activity. If you feel you can contribute in any way then please feel free to contact the Sambhav Team. [Home]

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Art of Criminal Tribe

May 2, 2008 at 11:00 pm (Blogroll) (, , , , )

The following article appeared in The Times of India, Mumbai edition on April 27, 2008. The original article is available at this link.

Aragtag train of children runs through the gullies of a tight settlement, badgering a drum and issuing an invitation: ‘Natak Natak. Motu Natak. Nanu Natak.’ They sidestep titanic cows grazing on dry milk packets, and matriarchs supervising the formulation of home-made alcohol on verandas. Illicit naturally. A man loading his Bajaj scooter with plastic pouches of kitchen liquor looks up perfunctorily, then carries on loading. The procession of children gathers mass on the way until, by the time it reaches a tiled square, it is a crowd. Around 15 of them mark the stage with their slippers, shush the audience, and launch into the act. The name of the play is Savdhan, the subject child marriage, and word on their grey t-shirts is, Budhan.

Budhan is a community theatre group, born to the Chharas of Chharanagar, Ahmedabad ten years ago, and born of the ignominy and punitive lifestyle foisted on this denotified tribe since the British rule. What the British government did in 1871 by ‘notifying’ 191 tribes as ‘criminal’ through the Criminal Tribes Act, the Indian government undid by ‘denotifying’ them, but then did worse by holding them ransom to the 1959 Habitual Offenders Act.

“To label six crore Indians as ‘born criminals’ is the equivalent of calling them ‘untouchables’. Yes, we do have a history of theft, but our ancestors were cornered into crime. How did you expect our families to survive in those ghettoes the British incarcerated them in?” asks Dakxin Bajrange, cofounder of Budhan and spokesperson for the Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNTs). Dakxin is on a bed, made temporarily lame by an accident. He is a documentary filmmaker whose subjects mainly arrive from the morass of state iniquity.

“They had to secure a permit to leave the ghetto, and return by a prescribed time,” he says about the hard youth of his elders. “My grandfather, who heard about a pretty girl in another tribal ghetto in Maharashtra, had to be accompanied by a policeman there, to marry her. When I watch films about the Jewish ghettoes in World War II, I recognise the similarities. Our ancestors were plied as bonded labour in industries and plantations for up to 20 hours a day, under the rationale that ‘legitimate’ work would reform them. Good behaviour allowed them out of the ghettoes in 1936, to a ‘Free Colony’, monitored by the British,” he says emphasising the irony with a wry smile.

Accustomed to being imprisoned, beaten, extorted and humiliated over the decades, a cumulative anger always burned in the Chharas. The educated among them were denied employment after ‘Chharanagar’ was discovered on their resumes, and earnest students were shunted from good schools. ‘Why do you need to study?’ they were taunted, ‘sell alcohol.’

Punished once by the past, and twice by a people who maliciously remember it, Dakxin and his colleagues decided it was time to jettison old associations. Their parents may have been thieves and bootleggers, but they had faith in education and set their children down that promising road (among the 12 DNTs in Gujarat, Chharas are most educated, with 100% primary literacy). The children, in turn, found clemency in learning. So when Dr Ganesh N Devy and Mahasweta Devi arrived here in 1998, ploughing the early ground for a progressive DNT policy, they asked the youth of Chharanagar what they’d like. A library, they replied. It materialised, and became their epicentre. They came here to study, and left with reformist agendas. They didn’t inherit their fathers’ crimes but they were recipients of that dramatic strain. In theatre, they found a tenable medium to transfigure friends (DNTs), chastise enemies (the police) and draw the attention of the rest to the impasse of the DNTs.

Their first performance in ‘98 announced DNTs’ first official vindication—a court verdict admitting compensation of Rs 2 lakhs to the widow of a tribesman called Budhan Sabar (from Bengal’s Sabar tribe), who died in police custody in Calcutta. The play was called Budhan. The group retained the name.

“After Budhan, there were three other custodial deaths,” remarks Budhan’s other founder, Roxy Gagdekar. His own father had succumbed to police brutality. Roxy is now a crime reporter for an English daily in Ahmedabad, but his job poses a liability. If he reports the routine police harassment in his locality, he has to accept its aftermath—revenge. “Someone down the line of my family or friends has a record for past crimes. I don’t want to invite trouble for them,” he says grimly. His contempt is subcutaneous. “Our anger finds accurate expression in the play Mujhe Mat Maro Sahab (Don’t Hit Me Sir),” he says. “It summarises all our problems.”

Two year ago they took their theatre into the lion’s den—the police academy at Karai, Gandhinagar. “We performed Mujhe Mat Maro Sahab, seething with antipolice sentiment.” remembers Dakxin. “Later in the week, seven to eight police vans drove up outside our library. We thought it was another raid, but they were academy students who had come to commiserate.” An attitude reversed, another mine defused. “Again, at Rangayana in Mysore, a police inspector approached us after a show, asking us to broker peace between the police and a DNT outside Bangalore.”

The Chharas have acquired some influential friends—Keshav Kumar, DG (CID crime branch), K R Kaushik, ex-commissioner of police and D Thara, ex-Collector of Ahmedabad. “The incidence of arrests has decreased,” says Dakxin. Public offensive has also mellowed. “Ab ye log sudhar gaye,” is the unsolicited opinion of Bipin, a rickshaw driver at Ahmedabad airport, glancing at Ravi Indrekar, the only Chhara auto driver.

Chharnagar now has the revised identity of an ‘actors colony’. Two of its fellows are products of the National School of Drama, another is a casting agent in Ahmedabad, one is studying drama at a local college, and 12-year-o1d Nitin Sekharbhai has copped a small role in an art film called Patang.

Improvisation is the order of Budhan’s theatre. Plays obtain the tangibility of a script only after an issue is examined, and vocalised by the actors, who arrive at a consensus as to what they want to say and effect. Props and sets are excess baggage, for the weight of an issue is heavy enough. “We prefer street theatre to ‘proscenium’ theatre, because it allows us to converse with the public,” says Aatish Indrekar, the drama student from Gujarat College. Aatish has the natural swagger of an actor. He gestures dramatically (flashing Dilip Kumar), and produces his sunglasses when on the street. “I want to stay a theatre actor,” he says. Most of the young people here say that. They don’t seem interested in film and television. Theatre, as they’ve learnt it at Budhan, has been their school of dissent. They have learnt the slogans couched in dialogue here and vented their wretchedness through these surrogate actions. Television may water down the gravitas.

Their oeuvre has now expanded. From police violence and discrimination, they’re throwing up opinions on teen marriages (rife in Chharanagar), new legislation (right to information), the devil of communalism and so on. All this done audaciously, yet with that chronic tremor of insecurity. Sandeep Indrekar, who played the female protagonist in an adaptation of Mahasweta Devi’s Stan Dayini (The Breast Giver), was, three years ago, jailed for three months on a claim that he says, was false. Roxy was made to vacate his upper class accommodation in another part of the city because neighbours complained to the owner. Dakxin was once assaulted by the Bhadwads, a politically strong tribe, while he was photographing the golden kalash mounted on a temple during a mela in Tharad. They strapped his arms to a horizontal pole, and beat him up and threw him off the premises. “But I went back in,” he said. They all do.

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Price Rise Breaking Families, Elderly Forced To Beg

April 11, 2008 at 5:57 pm (Blogroll) (, , )

The following report appeared on IBN Live and was published on April 11, 2008. The original post is available at this link.

Even as inflation continue to rise, it’s the poor who are paying a heavy price.

In a low-income group colony of Delhi, Bano steps outside her home only when hunger becomes unbearable. She goes out not to buy food but to beg, not for money but for a handful of food grain.

She asks from strangers what she expected from her son. But spiraling food prices have forced the son to look only after his own family of five.

“I feel ashamed but my son earns barely Rs 50. He has his family to look after. What can I ask of him?” Bano says.

At the end of the day Bano has about half a kilo wheat flour and some rupees. She waits until evening to light the fire, makes exactly three rotis (chapatis). She has one with salt and saves the other two. It will be the next evening before she lights the fire again.

“It is because of the price rise that I started to beg. I had never asked anything of anyone earlier,” she cries.

In the house next door, the food is the same. With two daily wagers and eight mouths to feed, others have to do their bit. The kitchen is not yet split but here too the elderly have to do their bit.

“We have no option. We go out to beg. At least we don’t steal. We don’t cheat,” Khaitun says.

Inflation became a cause for concern for the government only when it breached the danger mark of 5 per cent. But the poor had started feeling the pangs of hunger much earlier about a year back.

A hike of even Re One for a kg of wheat or pulses meant a drastic cut in the already fragile food basket.

“The shopkeeper pushes us away if we ask for oil worth Rs Five,” Khaitun says.

In another colony, Najma is also facing a crisis. Unable to provide for the family, her husband abandoned her. Her father-in-law earns about Rs 50 daily and it is not enough for the five people.

“I’ll not be able to speak. I can’t give anything that my children want. We can’t do anything for them,” Najma says.

Rising food prices have induced a new kind of vulnerability in the houses of poor where no one has enough to spare anything for the neighbour.

This is forcing people out on the road to beg for food. Rising prices have also severely challenged the traditional safety net provided by families.

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Another Tribal Dies Due To Police Attrocities

March 21, 2008 at 12:31 am (Blogroll) (, , , )

A tribal, Bhuddhilal Salat, living in Pavi Jetpur region of Vadodara died after he was picked up by Police from Pavi Jetpur. He was arrested on March 15, 2008 and the next day he was admitted to a hospital where he died. When asked, the DSP (H. N. Chaudhary), Pavi Jetpur said Bhuddhilal suffered from severe health problems and was released on bail on 16th. He was admitted to a hospital in Vadodara where he died.

More details on this are available on Roxy Gagdekar’s blog. Roxy is a journalist and works for DNA, Ahmedabad. He is a Denotified and Nomadic Tribes (DNT) activist and is a co-founder of Budhan Theatre Group.

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Where A Cremation Ground Serves As A Place For Study

March 15, 2008 at 1:23 pm (Blogroll) (, )

Posted on January 18, 2008 by Sanjay Ghamande. Sanjay is a diaspora journalist at Ahmedabad and is working for a US based publication. The original post is available at this link.

It is a strange sight indeed – groups of students busy cramming for impending examinations as bodies burn nearby on the funeral pyre.

Students from the eastern parts of the city seem to prefer the quiet of the Bhadreshwar cremation ground in Gujarat’s principal city to their cramped homes.

“We have no other place to study in, so we come to this cremation ground. It is very quiet here and nobody disturbs us,” Vishwanath Batunge, a law student said.

The cremation ground, spread over about half a kilometre along the banks of the river Sabarmati, has seen over the past three decades many people studying to become doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants.

Ankur Garange, another law student, said his home was too small and the large joint family living there distracted him from studies. “The university library is far away, nearly at the other end of the city.” Garange said.

As soon as the annual examination dates are declared, students from the Chhara Nagar and Kuber Nagar areas flock to the Bhadreshwar cremation ground. About 15 to 20 students can be found engrossed in their books while dead bodies are cremated nearby.

Yashodhar and Alkesh, both preparing for the Class 12 state board examinations, are regular visitors to the cremation ground. They said they did not waste any time at the ground, except some time off for eating.

“It is considered a taboo to eat in a cremation ground, but we cannot afford to walk six km back home for lunch. We bring our lunch boxes along,” Yashodhar said.

Students say they are not distracted by people who come for the cremation. “They do not make much noise and leave as soon as the rites are over,” said Alkesh.

Kantilal Tamayache, 50, a doctor, rues the fact that the neighbourhood still does not have a better alternative for students.

“We used to walk a long way to reach the ground as we didn’t have bicycles then. We had represented to the authorities for a library or reading room. It is unfair that nothing has come up even after so many years,” he said.

The long-standing demand by students that the administration open a public library or a reading room in their neighbourhood has remained unheeded.

“The municipal corporation does not have any space for building such a facility in the locality,” said here’s EX. Municipal Councillor Suryaben Patel.

“The people will have to raise funds for maintenance even if the space is provided,” she added.

There is one small library run by BHASHA RESEARCH CENTRE, BARODA with the help of well known Bengali author Mahasweta Devi and Dr. Ganesh Devy. They are trying to help this community.

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Stay Order on Maninagar Basti Demolition

February 11, 2008 at 7:08 pm (Blogroll) (, , , )

The Honorable Gujarat High Court has issued a stay order on the Maninagar Basti demolition against the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) on Friday (February 8, 2008).

The interim judgment came when a PIL was filed to provide alternate accommodation facility for the Rajbhois of the DhabgharVaas near Maninagar Railway Station under Nathalal Jhaddia Bridge. The Rajbhois were forced to leave the basti a few days back, after which Dakxin Bajrange along with the help of Rehanaben, an advocate in Bhasha and advocate Megha Jani filed a PIL in the panel of Honorable justice M. S. Shah and Honorable justice R. R. Tripathi. The judgment says that the Rajbhoi who have been forcibly migrated should be allowed to live in the ‘Rain Basera’ made for the urban poor and the Dabhgars of the basti shall not be removed unless an alternate accommodation is provided to them. The court will hear from AMC on Tuesday…

…a historical victory for the Budhan Theatre, which started the struggle for the basti nine years back.

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Fast for the Maninagar Demolitions

June 13, 2007 at 4:26 pm (Blogroll) (, , , )

We have been working towards securing the right to a dignified life for people belonging to Denotified Tribes, particularly focusing on those living in Maninagar, Ahmedabad. These people have been rendered homeless by the demolitions conducted by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). These demolitions, which have been done more than 12 times during the past 10 years, are done under the pretext of using the so-acquired land for “developmental activities”.

To protest against the brutality and inhumane behavior of the AMC and Police, people went on a “peaceful hunger strike” on March 22, 2006 for one day under the leadership of Dr. Ganesh Devy. The aim of this strike was to sensitize the Corporation Authorities about the problems which these people are facing due to the demolitions. Due to this strike, Mr. Anil Mukim, the then Municipal Commissioner and Mr. Sacha, the then Deputy Municipal Commissioner promised to provide alternative land to 112 families. However, till date, these promises remain unfulfilled. Along with this, a “number of applications” were written to the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner of the AMC to help these people settle at some permanent place but these too remain unanswered.

The insensitivity of the police and the administration and the absolute emptiness of all the promises made by them was brought into glaring light by the recent shocking incidents which took place on the 7th and 9th of June,2007 . On the 7th, the AMC visited Maninagar yet again to carry another round of demolitions. As a result, the entire population of the region, which largely consists of children and women, was left without a place to hide from the scorching afternoon sun. With the mercury rising steadily, these people have been left at the mercy of nature, with no shelter anywhere. As the people were coming to terms with this demolition, violence and brutality of an unprecedented nature was witnessed in the area on the 9th June. Whatever little belongings these people had were confiscated by the Municipality. A large number of women were brutally beaten and those who tried to resist were locked up in jail for more than 24 hours. Their rations and even the food which was being cooked were thrown away. Whatever was not thrown was taken away, thus depriving the families of food and other necessities. Women, with infants who were in need of nursing, were refused the permission to carry the infants with them to jail. One of the women, who had recently undergone a surgery, was refused medicines in jail and was kept in a room with no ventilation, even while she pleaded to be allowed near a fan. The policemen beat the women again in jail and even though they were released later due to the intervention of other organizations that were aware of this cause, their belongings still remain unreturned.

To express our anguish at these happenings and to mark our solidarity with the people of Maninagar, we have decided to observe a 24-hour fast beginning on the morning of the 14th June, 2007. Since we would not want to disturb the peace of the city, we have decided to observe this fast from wherever we are without gathering at any one place. This will begin tomorrow at six am in the morning. Those of us who are on fast will be allowed to drink only water. You too can be a part of our struggle and contribute in your own way; you are welcome to observe this fast along with us, giving the people of Maninagar, the much needed strength of belongingness and unity. Please do get back to us with your ideas and your inputs. We once again appeal to you to join in this moment of anguish and observe a day’s fast with us.

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