Chennai: Residents of Thangavel street in T.Nagar alleged that they have been witnessing the 'threat' of mass eviction for months. They alleged that recently on 28th December 2020, police and Chennai Corporation authorities visited Thangavel street and threatened them. Presently, 77 families, who are from dalit community, are living in temporary built tents opposite to their demolished houses.
According to them, these families have been residing in this area for over 50 year. People in the street protested and have requested to extend the time for eviction till end of January 2021.
Abhiram (name changed), a resident of Thangavel street told Madhyamam that his family and other Dalit families are homeless now. "Our ancestors lived in this street, nobody came then to relocate them and demolish homes. Now, the government and corporates are playing with our livelihood. We are not even getting adequate food."
"Some political parties will come here to increase their vote bank, apart from that we are not getting sufficient help from any of them. The owners of the building used to call us 'untouchables' and according to them we are ugly and waste fellows". He added
"We cannot tolerate this ignorance and hatred anymore. Now they are seeking help from government and demolished our houses. We are living in temporary huts now. There are women and girls too in this street, their security is a big issue. We are not second-class citizens. Upper caste people in Tamil Nadu are living well by enjoying all the rights, then why can't we live here? Why is nobody concerned about our rights and lives?", he asked.
Despite an order passed by the Government of Tamil Nadu which says that 'Housing Pattas' can be issued for families that have been residing on Government 'Poramboke' land for a period of 5 years, these families who have lived in this area for over 50 years, have not received any 'Patta', a legal document issued by the Government in the name of the actual owner of a particular plot of land.
S S Balaji, Deputy General Secretary of Viduthalai ChiruthaigalKatchi (VCK) told Madhyamam that the 'casteist' AIDMK government is ignoring the marginalized and historically oppressed people in Tamil Nadu.
'VCK is against the mass eviction of ordinary people in Thangavel street.". Government has now taken a decision to shift these slum dwellers to kilometers away from Thangavel. These people are losing their shelter and land. This is completely unconstitutional and an insult to Ambedkar's ideas", he said
"The financial stability of these people is also badly affected by this eviction. Government is ready to take action against the innocent slum dwellers but won't move a single finger against corporates who encroach land. Will the government demolish the golf ground of high-class rich people? AIADMK government is very much concerned about rich upper-class people by systematically ignoring poor lives here", he added
After hearing their plight, civil society network National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM) intervened and asked the Government to ensure "nationwide moratorium on evictions at least until June 2021", insisting, the "Centre and State Governments must uphold the right to life, livelihoods and housing with dignity of the urban working class."
A lady resident from Thangavel street detailed to Madhyamam about the condition of women and children there. "We feel unsafe to live in this temporary huts and tents. But we have no other option hence we are forced ourselves to stay here to get back our rights for staying in our own place. We all are sitting idle and college students are not able to write their semester exams. Even, school students not able to attend online classes."
Residents in Thangavel street allege that the eviction has badly affected their livelihood and there is uncertainty in relocation and rehabilitation. The same model of eviction is taking place at Sathyavani Muthu Nagar and authorities have demolished around 40 houses.
A statement released by the Housing and Land Rights Network (HRLN) on November 19 shows between 15th March and October 31 2020 alone over 54,000 people have been affected by eighty-three forced evictions and demolition incidents by Central and State governments across India.
Images from Thangavel Street
(Photo Credits: Special Arrangement)