The forceful eviction of 383 poor families allegedly by goons of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) from a locality in Topsia here in November 2012 to build the Parama-Park Circus flyover has rendered almost 2,000 people homeless and jobless since then. The families are demanding that they be rehabilitated and compensated adequately for the loss of their belongings and livelihood. The families usually earn from activities like pulling rickshaws, rag-picking, jute/bamboo work and waste recycling. Some are daily wage labourers. These families had been living in Topsia for the past 30-40 years and most have voter ID cards, Aadhaar cards and other legal documents to prove their identities and address. The evicted families have alleged that they were forced to vacate their houses as goons supported by the Trinamool threatened to kill them and rape the women. The eviction process was carried out without the presence of any police or local government authorities, they alleged, adding that during the eviction, 10 girls went missing and one woman got killed.
Mumtaz Begum, who had been evicted from her house in Topsia told The Sunday Guardian, “One fine morning, we were told to vacate our houses by some goons belonging to the ruling party who had come with sticks. When we resisted, they threatened to rape and kill us. They did not give us any notice nor did they promise to resettle us. Our houses were just bulldozed without the presence of any police or government authorities. Since then, we have been staying on footpaths and some along the railway lines, but no help has come from the state government.”
The families had also written several letters to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as well as to the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) and Sovan Chatterjee, mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, but their letters have remained unanswered. Owing to this, the families have once again decided to boycott the ongoing Assembly elections in the state. Earlier, they had also threatened to boycott the 2014 general elections, but their shanties were burnt in retaliation. However, later they were compensated with a paltry sum of Rs 12,000.
“We have lost everything during the demolition. We are poor and cannot afford to buy or rent houses. We demand that we be compensated well or given houses to support our families. We now live on footpaths and have no toilets. The women are unsafe. Housing is our basic right. Why should we have to live a life like this?” Mumtaz said.
Shivani Chaudhry, executive director, Housing and Land Rights Network, told The Sunday Guardian, “It is a gross violation of human rights and due to the state government’s apathy, the families have still not received any justice. The TMC government says that it is a pro poor government, but the government has failed to protect the 383 families who were illegally evicted.” “During the eviction, they lost their personal belongings and vital documents along with their livelihood. We demand the immediate restoration of their rights so that they can benefit from the government schemes,” Shivani said.
However, a senior member of the Trinamool Congress refused to respond to any queries on the matter and repeated calls to Sovan Chatterjee, mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, went unanswered.