On 7 February this year, Durgappa, a three-month old child, died of hunger and cold after the shanty he lived in at Jai Ambe Nagar in Mankhurd, Mumbai was demolished. The police officer in charge had responded saying that the boy’s father Nagesh Kadumanchi, who was left with just one piece of cloth around his waist, should’ve stripped down to cover his son and keep him warm. The municipal authority had confiscated clothes, cupboards, pots and pans, leaving people with nothing but what they were wearing on the day they lost their homes.
It is almost futile to state the obvious – the incident had zero media coverage. It was an everyday reality that a majority of the bystander population had become de-sensitised towards. There was no political party visiting the boy’s family, no online campaign, no tweets from celebrities, no mainstream media coverage, for the death of a poor child is not an anomaly. There are thousands of Jai Ambe Nagars. At Bhim Chhayya, another three-year-old child Jayesh Mohite died in 2011 after he drowned in a miasmic ditch dug by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to prevent further ‘encroachment.’ The father of this child was on a hunger strike for 19 days to seek justice, but he received minimal media coverage, mostly from smaller Marathi newspapers and news channels. Another man had died of a heart attack at Ambujwadi in 2011, when bulldozers tried to demolish his home. There was also a lathi-charge on women trying to non-violently protest a demolition in Sion and false cases against 80-year old women in Golibar for the same.
The invisible city has a thousand stories of struggle and despair, but as the controversy over builders, demolitions and the BMC has now found primetime coverage, the media that never visited those in Golibar in four years and seven demolition drives, is now asking if any politicians have ever visited them.