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Thursday, April 21, 2016
Feature | Kathputli Colony | Man's World Magazine
It’s difficult not to be dazzled by the different art forms that can be found in every scrawny street of Kathputli Colony, the slum in West Delhi that is home to several generations of traditional folk artists. The families, which consist of acrobats, puppeteers, folk musicians, dancers, snake charmers, sculptors, magicians, painters and bioscope makers, among others, settled here from different parts of the country almost four decades ago. Once peeled off, however, the colony’s endlessly fascinating veneer reveals a plethora of issues, and an endless wait for its residents. In 2014, the tensions between the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the residents of the colony were at an all time high. The DDA, which has partnered with the real estate company Raheja Developers, was trying to get the residents to move to transit camps at Anand Parbat, as part of its ‘in-situ slum rehabilitation scheme’. The promise made to the residents was that once the colony was vacated, the construction of multi-storied buildings would begin, with modern flats set aside for them.
About 525 families out of an estimated 3,000 moved to the transit camps, but the rest decided to stay put. For almost a year now, there has barely been any dialogue between the DDA and the residents of the colony. The sounds of the media attention, the NGO interventions and the daily demonstrations are playing at very low decibels now, and although normal life goes on, there is a sense of uneasy calm here. I walk through the morning bustle and a crazy amount of filth to Phad artist Shankar Lal Bhopa’s grocery shop, located next to his house. Talking about the current state of things, he says, “We haven’t been told anything about what’s happening. Our internal meetings about the issue have stopped too. But we still don’t feel safe, as all this can change any moment, and the biggest fear is that they will evict us.”