Left in the lurch after their homes were burnt by political forces that destroyed an illegal slum in Neelam Nagar, Mulund (East), residents of the slum alleged that the same political parties had earlier encouraged them into live in the area.
“First they let us stay here and come to us during elections seeking votes. Now, they suddenly want us to leave. Where will we go?” said Panni Marwadi, 40.
Although politicians claimed that no one was hurt in the incident that took place on Sunday, two residents of the slum—Dinesh Chavan, 37, and Poonam Marwadi, 45—suffered burn and blow injuries respectively. Poonam is still recuperating at the VD Savarkar municipal hospital.
The government land where the incident took place had 50 hutments that mostly housed rag pickers. These rag pickers are now living on the pavement on the adjoining road.
“All our belongings including our children’s uniforms and books have been burnt. A mob of 1,500-2,000 people barged in burning houses and hurling blows on us. They call us anti-social elements, but then how different are they if they assault us like this?” said Shakuntala Chavan, 60, a slum dweller.
Meanwhile, Congress member of legislative council (MLC) Charan Singh Sapra alleged that the slums started mushrooming in the area with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “Around four months ago, illegal encroachments were allowed by BJP MLA Sardar Tara Singh on a strip of land within 100 metres of this plot. This led to more encroachments,” said Sapra.
Singh and MNS MLA Shishir Shinde, on the other hand, said that it was a victory for all parties who had come together to oppose illegal slums. “All five major parties – BJP, Shiv Sena, MNS, NCP and Congress – came together to fight against encroachments,” said Singh.