The recent eviction of over 1500 Economically Weaker Section (EWS) households from Ejipura in Bangalore (see here, here and here) to make way for a high-end mixed-use development (with some EWS housing for “original residents”) is just one a series of millennial evictions that have scarred the landscape of Indian cities and yet another instigated by an order of a High Court. Below are seven quick propositions on how to understand these evictions, how to respond in the immediate and near-term.
Turn on the television any given day now, and you will be greeted by the news-media in unison informing you about the psychosis of fear—“north east fear/scare” is a useful shorthand—that seems to have gripped some of our fellow citizens. The numerous characterizations, all of which are variations on a theme, are not only ill-informed, they are also wholly inadequate and directionless. What does it mean to say that north-easterners are in the grip of fear, running away herd-like to their corners of the home-world? The bovine image, though useful in the sense of visualizing the sheer numbers involved, doesn’t allow us to think beyond.
This piece is an attempt in that direction. The fear is real, it is palpable on the railway platforms and at airports of major cities, and it surely has had the potency to disrupt a large number of people in the steps and motions of their daily lives. Others, including on Kafila, have written about the contentious issue of borders and migrants, of numbers and mutable identities; The Hindu has featured a series of interesting articles under the Sunday Story section, delineating the central role of information-technology and communication—technology whose role itself has radically transmuted amidst the last few months of the troubles, where we have seen the emergence of the cellphone screen as the new, unchartered frontier of radical, affective simulacra. Fingers have been raised, especially by our ever-articulate military-intelligence-scholarly community, against the customary foreign hand, and many of their accusations, might, in the days ahead, speak their own truth.
In the last few days the Nilasandra area in Bangalore has gained infamy across India as it came up as the name touted over and over again as the most sensitive area in Bangalore and the one which featured in most rumours about potential attacks against members of the north east community.
In a remarkable show of camaraderie and generosity the Muslim community called for an iftar party in the Akbari Masjid in Nilasandra and dozens of members of the north east community were invited along with members of the state administration. Over a thousand Muslims from Nilasandra, Anepalaya and Austin Town collectively vowed to safeguard the north east community living in Nilasandra.
In a touching speech one of the officials of the Akbari masjid Sadr Saab said that it was unfortunate that Nilasandra had shot to fame in this manner, and that residents of Nilasandra wanted to prove the world wrong by ensuring that there would be no violence of any kind in the days to come. A seventy year old man belonging to the Gurkha community similarly stated that he had lived for a long part of his life in Nilasandra and had never encountered anything unpleasant so far and did not expect to in the future either.
There have also been similar exercises in trust building that have taken place in other parts of the city and lets hope that these gestures of friendship will contribute towards lessening the atmosphere of distrust and fear that currently exists.
This has never happened to me before. But then, there is always a first time for everything in life.
My name is Zainab Bawa.
“Are you Punjabi?”
“Are you Parsi?”
“What are you?” Arjun bhai, the hawker outside VT station had once asked me. “Muslim,” I had replied. And then, very bashfully, he said to me, “Just asking. Could not make out. You speak such good Marathi. And then, after all, we are all of the humanity kind – you cut my finger, the blood that oozes out will be the same as yours.” Continue reading The Shame of A Name→