The Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) faced fierce backlash after its officials, accompanied by police personnel and bulldozers, carried out the demolition of houses in Panchsheel Nagar Basti, Govandi West, Mumbai, on 6 February.
The demolition, conducted in the presence of only young children and elders, has left over 110 families homeless, sparking outrage and demands for accountability.
Panchsheel Nagar, a settlement predominantly occupied by working-class Buddhist, Dalit, and Muslim families since 2002, became the target of BMC’s demolition drive without any prior notice or humanitarian considerations, said the locals.
The action, deemed illegal by residents and activists, violated the Maharashtra Slum Areas (Improvement, Clearance, and Redevelopment) Act, which mandates due process and rehabilitation for slum dwellers.
According to residents and the Jan Haq Sangharsh Samiti, most of the bastis in Panchsheel Nagar existed prior to 2011, making them eligible for paid rehabilitation. However, the BMC failed to produce Annexure 2 of the list of eligible and ineligible houses before demolition, further exacerbating the disregard for due process.
Residents and activists allege that BMC officials misled them about prior notices and evaded questions regarding the legal basis of the demolition. Despite promises made by Pujari, Assistant Engineer Maintenance of BMC, to spare houses marked safe in the project map, 13 old houses and around 100 newer houses were demolished, leading to the unjust displacement of families.
In response to the “unlawful actions” of the BMC, residents and activists have raised several demands, including immediate cessation of demolitions, compensation for losses incurred by affected families, and transparency in the BMC’s actions. The demands also include providing all documents related to proposed projects, maps, and the SRA list for Panchsheel Nagar.
The incident has shed light on the deep-seated bias towards marginalized communities and the urgent need for accountability in urban development processes, said Jan Haq Sangharsh Samiti.
As the affected families continue their fight for justice and fundamental rights, they urge the press to question the BMC’s actions and provide coverage of the injustice faced by the residents of Panchsheel Nagar.