From: NAPM India <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, Feb 1, 2012 at 7:28 PM
Subject: [initiative-india] Who really killed Baby Mohite? A story from the slums of Mumbai
The Vikhroli police, at the behest of angry residents, included the names of Mumbai suburban collector Nirmalkumar Deshmukh and deputy collector Shivajirao Davbhat in the First Information Report (FIR), charging them under Section 299, 304 as well as Section 304A, which states, "whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide."
The officials filed for anticipatory bail in the courts and the deputy commissioner of police cleared the officials of the charges and instead submitted a three-page report detailing how the boy's family are encroachers and anti-social elements.
Yet, before they were 'encroachers', in May 2011 the government had relented to a 9-day hunger strike by social activist Medha Patkar that had demanded, besides investigating fraud in the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme, to declare 19 settlements as slums under Section 5 of the Maharashtra Slum Area Act. Bhim Chhaya was one of them.
The right of a settlement to be called a slum would've given them rights and protected them from further demolition drives; the settlement was demolished repeatedly "from 2001, almost every year", according to suburban deputy collector Shivajirao Davbhat. The government, however, relegated on its promise and the settlement was exposed to demolitions once again when on November 16, 2011, bulldozers arrived and ran through the settlement, burning down some homes, while ditches were dug up to make the land uninhabitable.
A little less than a month later, on December 12, Jayesh Mohite drowned in a ditch that wouldn't have existed if the government had kept its word.
Builder lobby involved too
It's a fact that the residents never denied. Yet, of the hundreds of settlements demolished, almost all the residents were part of the agitation for a right to a home, and had even been on the two-day rally of thousands from Khar to the Mantralaya on June 28-29. Old men and women marched in the pouring rain — at times barefoot — hoping to meet the chief minister, who was being pressurised by the builder lobby to oppose Medha Patkar.
Incidentally, the land in question belongs to the forest department, and the high court had ordered the protection of all mangrove land in Maharastra in the Writ Petition 3246 of 2004, where it mentions, 'Regardless of ownership of the land, all construction taking place within 50 metres on all sides of all mangroves shall be forthwith stopped'.
At Bhim Chhaya, a building built by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) stands right next to the mangrove, and overlooks the demolished slum.
Back to the pavement
Jayesh was born on September 22, 2010; his mother was pregnant with him the last time their homes were demolished in the days between the March 9 and 12, 2010.He was the only son of Uday Mohite, an autorickshaw driver by profession and the unofficial leader of the agitating residents who have been fighting for a right to a home since 2005. He hasn't worked a day since the notice first arrived. After the death of his son, he had gone on a hunger strike which lasted for 19 days, and had even raised his voice and spoken about the long agitation for the right to a home at the India Against Corruption rally on December 28, 2011. Their protest goes on quietly in Vikhroli, now 74 days since their homes were demolished.
"They're cancelling our ration cards now," says Uday Mohite, as a group of residents sit around him with their voter IDs, their cancelled cards, and birth certificates of their children. Around eighteen cards were cancelled after the demolitions in 2010. This time, five more have been cancelled. "Jhopadpatti toot gaya na, toh ration cancel ho gaya," says Kantabai Bhimrao Khandkare, one of the women whose cards were cancelled, "They want the electricity bill. But do you see any electricity in the thousand homes here?"
Most of the residents are Matang Dalits without any land holdings, from as far as Jaalna, Solapur, Osmanabad, Buldhana, Beed, Nasik and Latur, who've been working in Mumbai as domestic helps or daily wage labourers, who may or may not get work when they go to the nakas. Kantilal Shinde, 74, who came from Osmanabad, says, "We put bamboos into the ground and made our homes. Many of us lived on the pavement before this."
A few days after the demolitions, people had gone back to the pavement.
Who really killed Baby Mohite? Published in DNA Jan 29, 2012 By Javed Iqbal
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