Hundreds of women and children are standing against bulldozers at a colony in west Delhi where shanties will be torn down to make way for multi-storey housing. Some 3,000 families of the ‘Kathputli (puppet)’ colony, home to puppet makers, drummers, magicians and artisans from 13 states, are protesting against a move to shift them for the construction.
Colourful life-size puppets are also part of the protest.
“Nobody is helping us. Leaders ask us to entertain foreign guests, we represent the country. I have been given an award by (former president) APJ Abdul Kalam but I have no place to keep it. We are being driven out for the benefit of one person,” said Puran Bhatt, a puppeteer.
They say their home of six decades has been sold to builders for a throwaway price of Rs. 6.11 crore, though the national auditor’s report has valued the land at Rs. 1043.2 crore.
According to a deal between the civic body Delhi Development Authority and private developer Raheja in 2007, the residents will be shifted to transit camps until multi-storey flats are constructed for them. But they say they don’t want the flats; just the land.
“The project was signed without consulting people living here. People who run small businesses here don’t want to shift to these buildings, it will ruin their lives,” said Sunaina, an activist who has joined the protests.
Last week, the families made an appeal to Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung.
“If we are shifted into flats then how will all the wood workers, singers who practice their skills, idol makers, puppeteers who make 15 feet tall puppets, those of us who walk on 15-foot tall stilts, rickshaw pullers, weavers, tailors, painters, construction workers, rope makers, toy makers, magicians, sanitation workers, drummers who play dhols that weigh 50-60 kgs and many others workers and artisans who live here be able to sustain our work and livelihood?” they asked in a letter.