West Bengal – Statement in solidarity with struggles for livelihood and housing

June 27, 2012

Statement from Jeebika o Basosthan Adhikar Mancha (Prastuti Committee)

Click here to read the original Bengali pamphlet

Stand by the struggle for the protection of livelihood and housing,
and against the eviction of hawkers and slums everywhere in the state including Nonadanga

Friends and co-citizens,

Recently the news of slum eviction at Nonadanga and hawker eviction at many places of the state has grabbed the headlines. We are watching with concern that following the footsteps of the previous Left Front Government, the new Trinamul Government has started eviction of slums and hawkers in the very first year of its tenure. They have declared a war against the provision of minimum livelihood and housing of the poor working people. The government has been repeating the same logic of development and beautification. But we are not getting the answer to a simple question, what will happen to the development and beautification of thousands of the working poor if they are deprived of housing and livelihood? The administration alleges that the hawkers and slum dwellers are squatters, this is illegal. Not for once they are asking themselves, why are they choosing such a path of the so called illegality? Besides, it is not the law, but man and his living which is supreme.

We have also noticed that not only are the shanty dwellers being evicted. Efforts are on to evict those who have built their houses on fallow land and have been living there for decades. They are facing regular threats in the name of development and beautification. Moreover the one room flats which were given to the evictees of the Khalpar eviction in the name of rehabilitation are not worthy of healthy living. They do not have any water supply, or schools for children, play ground, primary health centre. The minimum environment for a healthy living is missing there. Our demand is simple, when the Government is incapable of providing livelihood and housing facilities to all, it should not have any right to evict anyone on the slightest excuse. We would not tolerate any such attempts by the Government.

While fighting against eviction we notice that even our right to protest is being snatched away. Recently the police has forcefully banned meetings, processions, demonstrations, street campaigns by vehicles which were launched as part of the anti-eviction struggle of Nonadanga. Our comrades have been arrested. False cases have been slapped. Even to this day two of them are in the jail on non-bailable cases. We cannot tolerate the assault on the right to protest, to express opinion, to hold rallies. Besides, we believe that the assault which is being directed against the anti-eviction struggles today, will be directed against the workers, the peasants, the youth, the students and other oppressed people of the society tomorrow. There are clear indications to that effect.

Therefore friends, we are appealing to all the democratic-minded citizens to be a part of the struggle at this first opportunity against efforts to violate our rights. Come, let us confront the assault on the right to express opinion, to protest, to assembly by all our might.

A Summary of Events (March to May, 2012)

April 4: Police and plainclothes lathicharge the anti-eviction protest procession of the slum dwellers of Nonadanga as it reaches Ruby Hospital. Four women are injured, 25-30 people suffer minor injury.

April 8: A protest demonstration was going on near the Ruby junction after serving due notification to the police. At around 12.30 PM the police forcefully broke the demonstration, arrested 68 people. Seven were charged with various cases. Later on five of them were released, but two remaining protesters are still in the jail on charges of being Maoists.

Protest processions which were to be taken out from College Square on April 9, from Subodh Mallick Square on April 10, from Hazra More on April 12, organised by different organisations, were dispersed forcefully by the police; in each case the participants were arrested.

April 28: Slum dwellers launched a massive demonstration as the authorities built a wall to encircle the slums of Nonadanga. The police lathicharged, it arrested 14 people and slapped cases against them.

On May 11 eleven political parties took processions to Nonadanga and held a meeting there. Later the police filed cases against seven of the participants for illegal assembly.

We demand:

Right to livelihood and housing is our fundamental right.

Along with a dignified living for all, provisions for livelihood must be ensured.

Along with a dignified living for all, provisions for housing must be ensured.

Till the time you are not able to ensure these –

We would not take slum eviction lying down, we would protest eviction of housing, we would protest eviction of hawkers.

Our demand:

Police cases against all those comrades who have been arrested in the anti-eviction struggle must be withdrawn and they must be unconditionally released.

Jeebika o Basosthan Adhikar Mancha (Prastuti Committee)
Forum for Livelihood and Housing Rights (Preparatory Committee)
June 14, 2012

Forum for Livelihood and Housing Rights (Preparatory Committee) is a coordinating platform built on the initiative of different mass organisations and individuals who are in the fight for the establishment of right of livelihood and housing. We hope that with the joint effort and exchange of opinions of all interested organisations and individuals the forum would be consolidated.