Activists say that vested interests want to grab the government land that the slum is on.

View of Karcharkanahalli slum with temple visible in the backgroundAll images taken by author
news Slum eviction Thursday, June 25, 2020 - 14:33

Following the incident of slum torchings in Bengaluru’s Kacharakanahalli, another similar incident has come to light in the same locality, located closer to the ISKCON temple which is situated on the Kacharakanahalli lake bed.

This time, instead of fire, slum dwellers allege that vested interests brought in a large JCB to tear down the hutments some time in March this year. Only five individuals were present in the slum at the time of the incident, and they say that about a dozen people beat them up and threatened to kill them if they dared to call the police or anyone else. One person’s nose was broken and another was beaten up until he became unconscious, the residents allege.

The residents of the recently demolished slum hail mostly from Ballari, while the earlier slum that was affected was inhabited by migrant labourers from Gulbarga. Similar to the earlier incident, the slum dwellers had returned to their hometowns just before the lockdown was put in place, and had returned to find that their hutments were completely demolished and razed to the ground. However, they have been making efforts to rebuild their huts with torn tarpaulins and whatever else they can find.

Local residents allege that the hutments were razed by the land mafia. The land in question, along the Kacharakanahalli lake bed adjoining Hennur main road, is currently under possession of the government, after a High Court case deemed that the land belonged to the government but stayed the demolition of the ISKCON temple. However, this has not deterred the land mafia, who belong to powerful castes, residents say.

TNM had previously carried a video story on the slum demolitions in Kacharakanahalli lake. According to Murthy, activist and State General Secretary of VCK, the ISKCON temple, Rama temple, including choultries and hutments, were unauthorised occupants on the Kacharakanahalli lake bed land under survey number 153.

A resident of the slum who returned from Ballari said, “In January, the ISKCON temple had requested that we move a hundred metres into the lake bed area so that the slum does not interfere with the temple. We agreed and moved further into the lake. But when we came back, we found our homes in this state.”

The slum dwellers returned to destroyed hutments, stolen or irreparably damaged cycles, cooking utensils gone, and all their other belongings strewn around. They allege that the rest of their possessions were taken away in a tempo.

Speaking to TNM, P Ananda, BJP corporator for HBR layout, the ward under which Kacharakanahalli lake is located, said he did not know who was responsible for the demolition. He said, “I have not raised the issue or taken action because I don’t want to create trouble. Even police officials have not looked into the matter much.”

The residents said they are afraid for their lives as there are powerful people behind the temple as well as politicians in the area, and refused to give their names.


View of the temple from the stone barricades built to separate the slum from the temple.
Earlier, the stone boundary wall was not present, and slum dwellers could easily go to fetch water from the temple taps.

When asked about what he was doing to help the slum dwellers, the corporator said that “he can’t talk about such things over the phone”.

The police have already arrested the owner and staff of MRK tent house for the earlier demolition. Two people have been released on bail while the rest are in jail, sources said.

Local residents say that they are still being harassed over the issue. Five days ago, a tractor load of construction debris was dumped on the main path to the temple, which residents used to fetch drinking water from the neighbouring Rs 5 coin-operated water filter. With that option no longer available, they have to now walk for about 400 metres around the lake to fetch the water.


Path to the hutments, partially blocked with construction debris.

The livelihoods of daily wagers residing in the slum are also under threat. Joyce Premila, an activist who is helping the slum dwellers, said, “Usually, the daily wage workers stand in front of the temple and wait to be picked up for work, whether construction or shifting work. However, they have not been getting as much work as before because some vested interests are spreading rumours that they have coronavirus.”

The reach of these vested interests is such that the workers are being denied access to public buses too, Joyce says. “The BMTC bus drivers on this route don’t allow the workers to board the bus suspecting that they have coronavirus. This leaves the workers with no means of transport besides walking,” she said.


Temple buildings as seen from the slum

The ISKCON temple is currently fighting a legal battle over allegedly illegally setting up the temple on government property. The court had also stopped the temple from putting up a 62-foot-tall Anjaneya statue on the premises in April 2018.

The Karnataka High Court has already taken suo moto cognisance of the slum demolition and initiated proceedings in the matter.

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