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The 15-year-old Banjara market that could become the new Kathputli Colony of Gurugram

So far there have been no campaigns or plans to try and save the vendors of Gurugram's Banjara market from being rendered homeless and jobless.

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New Delhi: An open and sprawling 15-year-old market of ceramics and hand-woven durries in the heart of Gurugram’s uber-cool high-rises is now facing imminent demolition. The city development wants the ‘encroached’ land to build a college and bus stand, but nearly 200 families of Garhi Lohar community are refusing to budge ahead of the lucrative Diwali season. An enforcement team of the local authority, the Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran on Tuesday, began demolishing the market situated close to Sector 53-54 station of the rapid metro.

Around 200 hutments, spread across 8.5 acres in the Sector 56 market, were demolished by the HSVP, local residents said. It is part of the 25 acres of land that faces demolition threat.

Members of the Garhi Lohar community who sell wares on the land have alleged that they were not given any notice prior to the latest demolition drive carried out on 5 October. But the Station House Officer of Sector 53, Jung Bahadur, said that announcements had been made regularly for a week before the demolition was carried out.

Head Constable Praveen Kumar said that around 100-150 police personnel were deployed to keep the situation under control, adding the residents did not cause any disruption.

Customers thronged the half-demolished market Wednesday. One of the vendors, Sanjay, said the day saw the biggest turnout in recent times. A customer who did not wish to be named said he took a break from his office to scourge for good deals once he heard about the demolition.

A 70-year-old woman, Mishro, said that HSVP officials have demolished wares worth around Rs 10 lakh.

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“We were told we can be here till Diwali”

Pilla, a rickshaw-puller who works and lives in the area, said Diwali was the original deadline, which multiple vendors we spoke to confirmed. Shiva, a shop owner and vendor at the market said the time around Diwali is the most lucrative for business. But the extent of damage to wares and the looming threat of homelessness means it is going to be a very different Diwali for traders this year.

“We slept without a roof. Humse achhe toh kisan hain jo roadblock karke baithe hain,” Shiva said.

HSVP officials refused to comment on the matter. But a few of them who were aware of the demolition order said the land was being cleared because it belonged to the government, and had upcoming projects lined up.

A vendor and local community leader, Satish, said, “The government asks big companies to come invest in India and offer them loans and land. But it cannot provide us with a new place to set up our stalls?”

Satish (left, in white shirt) is a local vendor and leader at the Banjara market | Photo: Reeti Agarwal
Satish (left, in white shirt) is a vendor and a local community leader at the Banjara market. | Photo: Reeti Agarwal

While the Resident Welfare Associations and customers in nearby areas were sympathetic to the plight of people being displaced, there was no campaign or plan to save the vendors from becoming homeless and jobless.

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Another Kathputli Colony?

Delhi’s Kathputli Colony was an ‘unauthorised’ slum that housed puppeteers, magicians and singers from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.

A 2014 documentary, Tomorrow We Disappear, captured the plight of the artists before a demolition drive was carried out on 30 October 2017 by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). The families of Kathputli Colony, who were eligible for resettlement, were allotted a flat each in one of the three high-rise towers built for Economically Weaker Sections upon a payment of Rs 1.12 lakh (and a lump-sum maintenance expense of Rs 30,000 for a five-year period), within two years of their eviction. However, the project has stretched for almost 13 years, and the construction of the flats will reportedly be completed only by 2022.

The inhabitants of the Banjara market, on the other hand, are not so lucky. They have not been assured of any rehabilitation.

The inhabitants of the Banjara market in Gurugram. | Photo: Reeti Agarwal
The inhabitants of the Banjara market in Gurugram. | Photo: Reeti Agarwal

Multiple vendors said they would move if rehabilitation was provided. Shiva said, “We want to be official residents, we want documentation as well. We appeal to the government to rehabilitate us.”

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No ‘Save Banjara Market’ campaign

While the announcement of demolition of Kathputli Colony drew a lot of campaigns online, that has not transpired with the Banjara market demolition.

A few people have been trying to help the community by helping shopkeepers sell their wares online. But it is not a widespread protest to the extent of the ‘Save Kathputli’ movement. The few customers who did talk to ThePrint, in the midst of frantic shopping, were more interested in striking good bargains before the market was completely demolished.

Customers looking to buy wares at Banjara market in Gurugram. | Photo: Reeti Agarwal
Customers looking to buy wares at Banjara market in Gurugram. | Photo: Reeti Agarwal

One customer, Manish, said he had heard rumours that the market would be shifted to Mahipalpur.

Sanjay, a shopkeeper, said there were more customers than usual on Wednesday, and he was glad because he wanted to sell off whatever he could before the bulldozers arrived again.

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Where is the BJP now?

Satish said that the community had voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. He said community members had met with Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in 2020 and were assured that the market would not be demolished and they would be provided with alternative options if they had to move from the area.

Another vendor, Anil Lohar, said, “We appeal to the (Narendra) Modi government to help us survive. We will roam around and stay wherever we are sent to. We do not want to encroach. We just want to survive.”

Satish said that the community members have approached various political leaders who had assured them of assistance. “But I did not see anyone yesterday when our houses were being demolished,” he added.

(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)

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