‘Dear CM, I am 86 and my fate is in your hands’
I am 86 years old. Everyone knows what that means. I am in my twilight years. My eyesight has dimmed. I forget things. But one memory from the distant past has come back to haunt me repeatedly. Sir, I lost my home in Pakistan during the Partition. To you and many others, the horrors and brutalities of that time can only be witnessed through fictionalised accounts and history textbooks.
For me today, it is the worst of times, that in a free and independent India, I should have to go through the upheaval of being dishoused again. Once more, for no fault of mine. I am told that I will be evicted by force by the legal system, although I have no other home to go to…that I will be dragged out of my home by the police, even if my finances do not permit me to find any alternative place. Sir, we cannot afford to even rent a place in the same locality.
I have had a bypass surgery a few years back and it is my granddaughter Mallika,19, who is studying in a college in VT, is typing this for me. If I were to try to get my gnarled, arthritic fingers around a pen, no one would be able to read what I scrawl. What is to happen to Mallika’s education if we have to move? And move where? Which college will she get admission in after having studied 18 hours a day to qualify on merit to get into a premier institution such as St Xavier’s College?
Sir, I plead with you with folded hands, to exercise the powers vested in you, to protect our homes. I am told that our fate is now in your hands, and we have already been traumatised enough, in what is supposed to be a civilised society. I do not understand how the conscience of a nation is permitting this to happen. Sir, I am a broken man. All I ask you is to allow me to die peacefully in my home of 20 years. Please do not allow Campa Cola Compound to go down in history as the case in which more than 100 homes, entwined with a thousand destinies, could have been saved, if only you had acted in time.
— CK Chawla, in his letter to the chief minister
Student: We’ve forgotten how to smile, it’s depressing
Imagine coming back from school one day and being told that the one permanent thing in your life your home is being taken away from you. That’s what most of the children here in Campa Cola Compound had to face on May 2, 2013.
For two years, I had seen my parents and other residents of the compound running between lawyers and bureaucrats, trying to save our homes. Little did I know that we would actually be driven out of our houses someday.
On April 26, my parents were given 48 hours to vacate our house. Forty eight hours to empty out 22 years of their lives. It was scary; we didn’t know what to start packing or how, didn’t know what to take and what to leave behind. Everyone in the building was in a state of panic. The presence of BMC officials and policemen with bulldozers and hammers as tall as me did nothing to placate my fears. I often have nightmares about that day.
After I was born, this was the home I came to. I have celebrated 14 birthdays here, and have countless irreplaceable memories attached with it. Am I supposed to leave all those memories behind?
I feel vulnerable and scared. I have seen people come to my house and simply sit and cry because they feel so helpless. It is depressing to meet anyone in the building; it’s almost like they have forgotten how to smile. I don’t want to leave my home — it’s everything I have, everything my family has. And there are 200 other families just like mine who feel helpless, betrayed, cheated and will soon be homeless.
Every time, all the Supreme Court does is gives us an extension. Why can’t they just put an end to this suffering? Why can’t they just let us keep our homes? People have spent their hard-earned money to buy these flats and now it’s all going to be taken away from them, with no compensation.
Is it fair that the builders, who actually committed this crime and kept us in the dark, are going scot free while we, the residents, who were deceived, are being punished?
I was chosen to go for Seeds of Peace, a peace camp in Boston, USA, where we stayed with people from various conflicting countries and heard innumerable stories about how the Palestinians were unmercifully thrown out of their own houses by the Israeli military. Is this any different? All I want is for our leaders to exercise their powers to save us. Today these are our homes, tomorrow they could be anyone else’s.
— Parmanga Mehta, student
‘Can I get my house back?
In the past five months, everyday I have died as a wife, as a mother and as an individual seeing my husband blame himself for putting his family through this devastating experience.
I have seen my son mature overnight as we couldn’t afford sending him abroad for his further studies. Can any one even image the scars he would be carrying all his life as all his friends have gone for their further studies? My daughter, who is in the 10th standard, has asked me this question many a time that India’s Constitution says for the people, of the people and by the people and if the common man in India has to suffer so much why should I stay in our country?
Anywhere else in the world a 30-year-old case is a shut case. No one can imagine what we are going through and can I get my house back which has been my home full of memories as my children were born here, took their first steps and spoke their first words.
— Kalpana Trivedi, a resident