A wide rubble-filled space marks the area where the Annabhau Sathe Nagar slums stood until Friday, in Mankhurd.
The demolition drive that was carried out on Thursday and Friday cleared away an estimated 3,000 shanties, rendering about the same number of families homeless.
Rajendra Jadhav (40), from a family of daily-wage labourers, is among those left with nothing but a pile of rubble to mark where his hut stood. “I have nine family members. They all became homeless yesterday [on Thursday]. Where do we go now?” The future appears bleak to Jadhav, who has lived in the settlement for the past ten years.
“Our mosque and temple have both been bulldozed and burnet. We even had a PTR (Property Tax Returns) number for the mosque, which was ignored,” said Mohammed Hussain Ansari (39). The mosque, now reduced to debris, also served as a school for seventy children who were given free education, he added.
“We hid in the temple with our belongings thinking they would not raze a temple even if they razed our houses,” said Sakuntala Devi Gupta (45).
Medha Patkar, noted social activist, arrived at the site on Friday. She helped the slumdwellers to build a temporary shed in the cleared space.
“I am afraid that Annabhau Sathe Nagar is just a beginning. Soon they will go on to other settlements, like the mass slum demolitions of 2004,” she said.
“We have been trying to get all the settlements in Mumbai declared as slums. A declaration is an admission that humans are living in inhuman conditions. As for solutions, we have formed an alternate rental housing plan,” she said.
Local activist Simpreet Singh alleged that the authorities did not issue any notices and the demolition was illegal.
Deputy Mumbai suburban collector Dhananjay Sawarkar refuted allegations of not issuing notices to slumdwellers at Mankhurd.
“The process of issuing notices and scrutiny had began as early as 2009. We had issued them notices in June 2009 and asked the slumdwellers who have been residing there prior to 1995 to respond with documentary proof. Later the elections set in and things got delayed. Now we have resumed the process.” he said.