Slums or famously known as the black spots of the urban cities we live in, face injustice at every step.
I have visited quite a few of these black spots due to various reasons in the past five years but my visit to the slum at Gulshan Chowk, which is near Patel Nagar in the West Delhi District, has proven to be an eye-opener of the reality of India for the rest of my life. More than a year ago, on June 25, 2017 the DDA (Delhi Development Authority) without any prior notice, and on the pretext of cleaning the area, came barging in and demolished their homes. People there weren’t even allowed to take out their belongings. Only a few lucky ones were given the time to take important belongings out of the house. Within a few minutes, they started demolishing the houses, not realising the implication of those few minutes on the people who live there. Their belongings still lie underneath the debris. These people have been living there from more than one and a half decade. But, when the authorities came to demolish the place, they didn’t even think about the reallocation and rehabilitation of those people.
The people there taught me in a few hours about what humanity is. I was only a person who was a stranger to them, and was just there to know about the problems they faced after a year of demolition. They proved to kind hosts and talked about their plights with all honesty. My myth that time of those who are rich and famous is the most valuable came all crashing down when I realised that the time of the people who have to work each day for survival can be the most important.
Another valuable thing they offered me, other than their time, was water. A glass of water. You would think that it’s the most basic thing a person can offer to the guest who visits. But look at the image attached.
This is how the people keep their water. Locked up in chains, because the major problem they face is of access to water. People told me how once in a week the water tanker doesn’t show up and they have to keep few litres aside in case of emergency.
The few hours I spent at the slum had another lesson for me: a lesson of hope and resilience. Even after going through so much, and more than a year of struggle and fight against the demolition, I still saw hope in their eyes that the on-going case in High Court (the next hearing of which is on 26th January 2019) would turn out in their favour and they won’t have to leave their homeland. On one side, I saw the problems, the reality of the world and the India that we live in, and on the other hand, the trust of these people in the justice system and their hopes that basic human right to housing won’t be taken away from them. The slums in the middle of the capital of the world’s biggest democracy reflect the imperfection of the justice system we live in, the inadequacy of human compassion, and our lack of sensibility toward the suffering of our fellows.
We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who don’t even have basic human rights. We have a social responsibility towards them, i.e., to treat them with the same dignity and respect that they show to us, at all times. Even when they display utmost humility by sharing their most precious asset – the water – but still receive inhumane treatment whereever they go. There exists a lot of discrimination in the world, authorities repress the people; and lakhs of people who are vulnerable and belong to marginalised communities are trapped in poverty and face exploitation at every step. Above it all, we all have a responsibility to them and to this country.