While Malayalis world over are busy laying pookalam (flower carpets) and relishing the sadya (feast) on Onam, a group of residents in Kochi’s Maradu have been sitting under a tent, holding placards and demanding justice against the demolition of their apartments, bought with their hard-earned money. They are on a hunger strike, since Wednesday morning.
“Do not consider me as a film star but as a human being. We need your support. There are elderly families and children, too, who live in these apartments. Imagine what will happen to the school-going children,” said actor Soubin Shahir, who, like other 344 flat owners, is facing uncertainty as the Supreme Court has ordered the demolition of four apartment buildings - Jains Coral Cove, Golden Kayaloram, H2O Holy Faith and Alfa Serene - by September 20, for violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. The state film award winner and his family are residents of one of the buildings - H2O Holy Faith.
On Wednesday, the actor joined several residents, who were protesting in front of the Maradu municipality office in Kochi, just a day after the officials served them the notice to vacate the buildings in five days, by September 14. All four buildings are over nine years old.
"We did our due diligence before we bought these apartments. We are paying our taxes to the government regularly, too," said Soubin.
The residents have been holding a hunger strike or a dharna against the denial of justice and demanding rectification in the inaccuracies in the CRZ rules. They have simple demands: “listen to our grievances”; “treat us with compassion”; “we seek justice and right to life”. They are asking simple questions to the authorities concerned: “we did not violate any rules”, “why punish us for somebody's mistake", "to whom should we tell our woes”.
These are some of the placards that stand prominent at the protest site in Maradu.
Meanwhile, the residents will file a writ petition before the Kerala High Court, stating humanitarian concerns over an eviction notice, as it was served without a proper notice period. They will also file a curative petition before the Supreme Court, after the latter gave an ultimatum to demolish the four buildings in Maradu.