Statement from PUDR – Condemn Attack on Nonadanga slum dwellers by West Bengal Police in Kolkata


PUDR strongly condemns the violent demolition of the Nonadanga slums on March 30th in Kolkata, and the subsequent police brutality on peaceful anti-eviction protests followed by the vindictive arrest of activists.

Nonadanga is the area where the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) has been resettling slum dwellers evicted from various parts of Kolkata over the past five years under the BSUP (Basic Services to Urban Poor) scheme of the JNNURM. The resettlement projects have been run by KMDA and the Kolkata Environmental Improvement Project (KEIP) jointly. Preliminary reports indicate that slum residents also include refugees from Singur and Nandigram, as well as people displaced by Cyclone Aila. So, by no stretch of logic are these slum-dwellers ‘encroachers’ as claimed by the state government. In fact, the land in Nonadanga is very close to a prime city location and the present drive to clear the space by the Trinamool government is the first step towards its plans of handing over this land to real estate companies for ‘beautification and development’.

The brutality of the State police force in dealing with peaceful demonstrations, openly captured by television crews, needs to be strongly condemned. Such as the lathi-charge on the protest rally by slum residents on April 4, that left many injured, including a pregnant woman, Rekha Patra, and a 3 year old child, Joy Paswan. On April 8, a peaceful sit-in demonstration by the residents and activists was broken up by the police despite them having prior permission from the authorities. The police have resorted to mass intimidation of slum dwellers and other protesters along with arrests of activists opposing the demolition. 7 activists of whom 2 are women have been charged under sections 353 (assault on public servant), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to public servant), 141 (unlawful assembly), 143 (punishment), 148 (rioting armed with deadly weapon) and 149 (common objective of disruption) of the IPC and are in police custody till the 12th of April.

PUDR notes with concern that this demolition, attacks and arrests come in a continuum of a worsening democratic rights situation in West Bengal. Another alarming phenomenon is the bringing out of the ‘Maoist’ bogey to define all democratic movements as if that gives the state unmitigated rights to disregard the law and crush people’s movements and aspirations with armed might.

Condemning the blanket ban announced by the State Government on all protests on this issue throughout the state, PUDR demands:

* That the eviction drive be stopped,
* The immediate and unconditional release of all arrested activists and the withdrawal of false charges against them,
* That the demolished slum be rebuilt with proper facilities in the same spot
* That the guilty Police officials be punished, and
* That the Government stop attacking the fundamental right of people to voice their protest against injustices.

Preeti Chauhan & Paramjeet Singh, Secretaries PUDR