Mumbai: East Indians take to the streets to demand the return of land

Jul 30, 2018, 09:22 IST | Gaurav Sarkar

Scores of East Indians stepped out at 10.30 am on Sunday in Vakola, Andheri, Malad and Kanjurmarg to voice their frustration and demands

Mumbai: East Indians take to the streets to demand the return of land
East Indians at one of the four protest venues on Sunday. Pic/Atul Kamble

The East Indians were among the first to make their homes in Mumbai over 300 years ago. And yet, as the city developed, they were left behind. This was the lament of more than 210 members of the community who took to the streets yesterday, to demand that the Maharashtra government recognise them as the original inhabitants of Bombay, Thane, Vasai and Raigad, and return their land to them.

Scores of East Indians stepped out at 10.30 am on Sunday in Vakola, Andheri, Malad and Kanjurmarg to voice their frustration and demands. The peaceful rally was organised by the Mobai Gaothan Panchayat and 30 other East Indian associations across the city, as part of the 6th Annual East Indian Solidarity Rally. The peaceful rallies were held simultaneously at four locations, exhibiting the cultural richness of the community with a ghumat (percussion instrument made out of a pot) performance and renditions of the community's traditional folk songs. However, at the heart of the rally was their centuries-old bitterness at having been sidelined in their own city.

The rally featured a ghumat performance, as community members made their demands. Pic/Atil KambleThe rally featured a ghumat performance, as community members made their demands. Pic/Atul Kamble
The rally featured a ghumat performance, as community members made their demands. Pic/Atul Kamble

Underdeveloped
Their foremost demand was that if the authorities cannot not fulfill their requirements, they should return the land that was taken away from them. Speaking to mid-day, Alphi Dsouza, managing trustee of Mobai Gaothan Panchayat, expressed that the Gaothan expansion policy needs to be properly implemented. "We are looking out for our people," he said. "Our lands were taken for development, such as the area near the airport; yet the gaothan remains underdeveloped. Whatever land the government has taken and used is a closed matter; not much can be done about it now. Our one demand is that whatever land they have taken that is yet to be developed, such as the land in BKC, should be returned us, the rightful owners."

'Need a community centre'
Another concern for which they peacefully protested on Sunday was the selling of community land by the Archdiocese of Bombay — land that had been donated to them— and which had not yet been developed. This, too, should be returned to the community, they said. However, there remains the looming question of what will happen if and when the land is returned, as individuals don't have the financial power to develop it themselves, or make it fit for residential settlement. "At least take cognisance of the situation and meet us halfway — give at least 50% of our lands back — do something. As of now, there isn't even a 1,000-sqft community centre for us in the city," Dsouza said.

The rally will serve as a ray of hope among the community, hopes Dsouza, much like it was earlier this year, when the gaothan development issue was raised for the first time in the Nagpur Assembly.

Top issues

  • Fulfill their demands, or return their land
  • Implementation of the gaothan expansion policy, and single-window permissions for gaothans
  • Land to be allotted for East Indian Bhavan and East Indian Reetin Gaothan in Bombay, Thane, Vasai and Raigad
  • East Indian food stalls to be allotted in each gaothan area and municipal ward
  • No property tax for East Indians

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