In the 13 Rules for Radicals by American Activist Saul Alinsky for the Community Organisers, the first rule is “Power is not what you think you have but what the enemy thinks you have.” These rules are for the low income Communities towards gaining social, political, economic and legal power. Also, the radicalism has been described a sone of the most potent way for social intervention especially in the situation of distress. 200 homes were demolished by DDA officials and Police on July 5th, 2017 which made more than 1000 people homeless and helpless. They had to live under sky for more than a week before they got to know that nearby slums do have threat of further demolition on July 12th, and some sources said it might be on 14th and 20th as well. The deteriorative condition and further destruction led to the coming together of slums to protest the demolitions. They decided to discuss this out with DDA officials with the help of some civil society organisations. These organisations care together to study the issue and a petition was filed in the High Court of Delhi for the resettlement and compensation for the demolition which was done without any advance notice.
People of Community decided to sit on strike and protest the demolition in front of the DDA office at Vikas Sadan INA, Delhi. They came in large number for the purpose on Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 at 10.00 in the morning. More than 500 people along with students from different institutions and members of several civil society organisations came together in solidarity of the issue. They submitted a memorandum of demands to the Principal Commissioner of DDA. A delegation was called for the discussion on demands. While the discussion was going on in the office, people on strike shouted slogans like “Sarkari Zameen, Hamaari Zameen” (The Public Land is our Land), “Hum Apna Adhikar Maangte, Nahin Kisi se Bheekh Maangte” (We are asking for our rights, not begging) and “Ghar Todne Walon ko Ek Dhakka Aur Do” (Give a shock to those who demolish our homes). They sang protest songs and shared their experiences which were shocking as well as emotional. The cowardice act of police and DDA in dealing with women, children, elderly and Person with Disability was very insensitive and inhuman. The education of students, the dignity of women and old age persons have been affected. Here comes the first rule for radicals which says power is not what you think you have, but what the enemy thinks you have. Power of community lies in their unity and their being together. They couldn’t have realised this had an atrocity occur to them. In the time of atrocity they stood with each other and this was their power that DDA had to listen to their demands.
DDA officials in meeting agreed for not doing any further demolition in the slums. Community Representatives were very happy with the meeting but they were also of the view that the fight is half way as of now and there is a long way to go. On the other demands of building homes on the same site and regarding settlement, DDA officials denied to accept any Government or Court provision of giving an advanced notice to the slum before demolition. Representatives provided them with appropriate Court judgment about the same. On the point of resettlement they have agreed to provide resettlement to people living in the community prior to 2006 and copies of Proof of Identities needs to be submitted to DDA for the same. A similar incident had happened in the year 2006 when people resisted the demolition and High Court ordered for a Survey of the slums which has not been done till now. Again a similar order for the surveys has been proceeded. It is to be seen how will things turn up. But this protest was a successful event of coming together of people who mostly are into informal works and are daily wage labourers. They sacrificed their one day of work and wage, students didn’t go to their schools, women were outrageous towards their condition. They said “they were the one who turned the digs and waste into dwelling units, this land has been transformed into land by their labour. On the virtue of this, it is their land and DDA is no one to ask for our land. They are the one who have broken rules by not giving us advance notices. They are the one who are upto encroaching lands.” Each and every sentences spoken were right in the perspective that lands belong to those who make them not who own them. This is first of many struggles that the people of Baljeet Nagar have won, if not the full then this is their moral victory.
Ankit Jha: I am a Social Worker at Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) and has done Masters in Social Work from Delhi School of Social Work, University of Delhi. I was a founding member of Ambedkar Memorial Lecture Committee at DSSW and Co-editor of emimaansa.com. I write on the issue of Land Rights and Forest Rights.