Thousands of activists and slum dwellers from across the city embarked on a two-day march on Tuesday afternoon to highlight the housing problems faced by the urban poor in Mumbai. The march began at Ambedkar ground at Shivaji Nagar in Mankhurd, and will end at Azad Maidan in South Mumbai.
Actor Sadashiv Amrapurkar and land rights activist Medha Patkar flagged off the Sangharsh Yatra at 1.30pm, and people from slums all over the city showed up at the march that ended at Shivaji Park in Dadar on the first day. The rally was organised by NGOs Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan and National Alliance for People’s movement (NAPM) to protest against the illegal demolitions by the authorities and to expose the builder-state nexus in the city.
A massive contingent of 2,000-strong protesters from Ambujwadi in Malvani and Golibar in Khar (East) was a part of the rally. Also, students from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), who have been working in the M (East) ward project in the Mankhurd-Govandi belt, also showed their support by marching with the protesters.
“On the second day, we will leave Shivaji Park at around 7am via Lalbaugh and reach Azad Maidan. A small group of protesters will visit Mantralaya and present to the authorities the difficulties faced by the urban poor from the builders’ lobby and various government agencies like the police, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) and Mhada,” said an activist of the NGO Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan.
Ruksana Shaikh of Rafiq Nagar was present at the rally with some family members. “This protest is for us, so it was important for us to come. How can the state demolish our homes and call us illegal? If we are Indians, how can we be illegal? Do we not have a right to live safely, or have clean water or healthcare?” she asked.
A Mandala resident lamented on how 41,000 huts were demolished by the authorities a years ago, leaving them homeless. “Isn’t there any space for the poor in the city? We build your homes, your roads and your flyovers, yet the government breaks our homes,” he said.