By Nabeela Paniyath,
New Delhi: Katputhli colony, one of the world’s largest artist’s colonies, is facing a threat to its existence. The residents of the slum in West Delhi, where three generations of performers and artists live, are protesting against the Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) redevelopment plans. In 2010, the DDA initiated the redevelopment project of Katputhli colony on a public-private partnership basis. The contract was granted to Raheja Builders. 2800 flats were to be built for the residents of the colony, while a portion of the land was to be given to the developer for constructing commercial and residential buildings. Complications arose in negotiations between the DDA, builders and the residents. Since, the number of families in the colony number more than 3500, the DDA signed an agreement with people who were willing to leave the area, giving them a temporary settlement. Those families which left, say that their problems have increased. The temporary settlements, which are near Anand Parbat police are insecure and isolated, making them unsafe for living. People living in Katputhli Colony allege that the builders and DDA are in league against them. They say that their opinions were not considered while making the redevelopment plans.
Lakshmi, a resident of the colony says, “If you have a child and you have done everything for the child, you have given your entire care and love to the child, then abruptly an outsider comes and snatches the child away from you. How would you react?” They (DDA) are saying they will give us flats. But will any of us ever get anything from them?” She adds that many residents have an emotional connection with the place, which makes them reluctant to leave, even if offered compensation. Currently, Katputhli Colony is organizing a human chain in protest. The colony is using its artistic heritage to come up with different ways of protest. Songs and puppetry shows are being used by the artists to highlight their plight. Sanjay, an activist involved with the Delhi Solidarity Group, says that the colony is a victim of urbanization, and the people are fighting to make their own wishes prevail upon those of the government. “They are not willing to accept the bribe offered by the builders. They are organizing the protest themselves, they will fight till they win,” he explains.
A DDA representative who does not wish to be named, gave his view on the matter. “What we are trying to do is for the development of the country. We are not responsible to answer to media people,” he says. As the battle between the DDA and the residents seems set to intensify, Katputhli Colony fights for its very survival.