'Fasting unto death is the only way for us'
Khar gaothan resident Anita Pinto is a woman on a mission. The 40-year-old, who claims to have lost all her documents, money and valuables in the razing of 27 houses of Fernandes chawl last week, says she will start a fast unto death today.
“I was to send my son who is awaiting his graduation result to Dubai for work. But now all our passports, identity cards, money and jewellery have been buried in this rubble. I am as good as dead. I will fight the injustice done to us with my life. From 9 am, I will go on an indefinite fast unto death. There is nothing else left for me to lose now,” she said teary eyed.
A number of Muslim residents are observing roza for Ramzan. One of them, Salma Shaikh, said, “We are on a fast from sunrise to sunset. But Anita will fast to put an end to the injustice. We all support her and will join her as she sits near the demolished houses.”
Aftab Siddique, chairperson of 33rd Road, Khar advanced locality management (ALM), has been helping Khar gaothan residents to arrange permissions for the agitation. “On April 2 this year, the intimation of approval (IOA) of the developer was cancelled and so there was no developer when the demolition was done on June 8, 2016. There are many irregularities which the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) and police are overlooking. The residents are ready to approach the Chief Minister if the need arises as their pleas are falling on deaf ears,” she said.
Vishwas Patil, SRA chief said, “I just took over two days ago and am not aware of this case (Khar gaothan). If you come to my office, I will look into the matter and understand the case better.”
Trivankumar Karnani, legal advisor to Darisa Builders, which is the developer of the area, said, “The allegations of the tenants are completely frivolous, baseless and malicious, and the same allegations were made before the SRA, the High Court and the Supreme Court. All competent authorities have passed orders proving that their claims and accusations are false and baseless. Furthermore, the Bombay High Court fined the non-cooperating tenants Rs 1 lakh in a review petition order dated March 1, 2016, for making false and casual allegations.”
Fight for justice
He claimed that the developer intends to commence the redevelopment immediately and requested the two to three non-cooperating tenants to cooperate and follow the laid down law and procedures.
“We are not merely two to three,” alleged Shanti Pillai, a resident of Khar gaothan.
“Our lives have been uprooted. We will fight till we get justice. All the documents are in our favour, only money and power is with the builder. Our money and bank documents are all buried here. But we are still alive; we will fight for our homes and will knock the doors of all authorities,” she added.
Karnani said, “Temporary alternative accommodation will be provided to all the tenants declared eligible as per Annexure 2 of the SRA scheme and in accordance with the Bombay HC and SC orders.”
Tenants, however, said they do not want this. “This developer has indulged in a lot of fraud and has been bribing all the authorities. We will not be pressed by money power. We will go down fighting as we have nothing more to lose,” ended Valerian Fernandes, another resident.