Delhi and its historicity has always fascinated me. Here, every stone sings the story of bygone ages. The air we breathe has the dust and fragrance of the past, hope and despair of the present, and challenges and opportunities of the future. From Inderprastha, the legendary Delhi of Pandavas, to the Ninth Delhi—the Delhi of Naraina and Vikaspuri, of Dakshanpuri and Tirlokpuri, of Yamuna River Front and Tughlakabad city forest, of 16 lakh new trees and hundreds of woodlands and parks, of Nehru Place and Vikas Minar, of Okhla industries and new markets and terminals—there is one vast spectacle of history which enthralls as well as depresses, charms as well as repels. The epic drama unfolds scene after scene, of triumph and tragedy, of love and hatred, of rise and fall. -- Jagmohan, Vice Chairman of the DDA, in the Preface to Island of Truth
Delhi Development Authority's "Squatter Plan" during 1975-76 was the biggest peace time resettlement plan in any metropolitan area in the world -- Radha Raman, Chief Executive Councillor of the DDA, 14 May 1976
Dakshinpuri was created as part of the Emergency’s mass resettlement campaign of inner-city slum dwellers to the outskirts of Delhi. The displacement of about 120,000 families and the creation of 27 resettlement colonies, mostly on the periphery of the city, were part of the Emergency’s sweeping urban development plan to beautify and organize the city. According to Emma Tarlo, who cites a DDA (Delhi Development Authority) publication of the time, the demolitions and planting of trees were directly proportional: half a million people were resettled and half a million trees were planted. While Delhi’s poor was relocated to the vast wilderness surrounding Delhi, their former homes were being leveled and converted to parks, stadiums and shopping centers. (While sterilization was often a prerequisite for getting a plot card later on in the Emergency, in Dakshinpuri, which was mostly settled in the summer/monsoon months of 1975, it does not seem to have played a role in the resettlement process.) Dakshinpuri's primarily Dalit residents were given leases for 99 years--and for most, it was the first time they had ever legally owned land.
This is the first of a series of excerpts of residents’ narratives of how they got to Dakshinpuri, where they came from, and how they slowly re-built their lives from scratch. I plan to write a more cohesive account of the making of Dakshinpuri, but I also think these peoples’ voices should be heard in their rawest, “uncensored” and most powerful form, exactly as they were told to us.
They came from every corner of Delhi—those who could no longer be contained within the bursting belly of the city. They came in the rain. Some were given a few days notice, some a few months, that they would be relocated, but no one knew exactly where or when. One day, they were told to pack their things and get onto the truck that would take them to their new home. Watching their homes crumble, they climbed onto trucks jammed with people, children, utensils, cots, clothing and memories, and made their way towards the edge of civilization.
It was a barren desert, and gusts of cold wind blew across the vast open space; the air was full of mosquitoes, and the dust and insects mixed with our food...It was a graveyard, the first night we came we found human bones buried under the soil where our plot was - human bones! We were deep in the jungle, it was completely dark, there was no light. There were snakes, scorpions and insects. It was great fun during the day, having the open jungle before us, but at night we were scared...When we came, there were nothing but open fields, fields upon fields, there were no roads, there was only kaccha ground..That first night, we all made Roti together, and sat in the camp together as if we were fellow travelers...No one slept that first night, we stood watch for each other in shifts, they were roaming and looting gujjars...(multiple interviews)
Hum Arjun Nagar mein baithe the. Sare ko nahin pata tha ki yeh tute honge, buzurg ko pata hoga lekin mujhe nahin pata tha main to khel rahe the vahan, main to 6 saal ka tha. To vahan jab kameti ekdam todne ke liye aaye the, hum khush the. Haan, humare ghar tut rahe hain, lekin tut rahe hain koi baat nahin, hum khush the, gharwale pareshan the, kisi ko pata nahin tha kahan le ja rahe hai, apna saamaan shaam ka taim bandha, truck mein rakha, truckwalon keh rahe the: phataphat kar lo! das-paanch minute ka taim hai, jaldi jaldi jaldi uthao! To apna saamaan, saadan ka le liya, lakdi hai, charpai hai, apne barton hai, bakri, murgh pakde, aur bandh-boondhkar truck mein rakh diye. Dakshinpuri san 1975 ka shuruaat hua tha, aur ek truck mein kam se kam das das aadmi ka saamaan aa jata tha. Aaj das truckon mein ek aadmi ka saamaan dalkar aata hai.
Jab hum aaye yahan jungle hi jungle tha. Jhuggi is tarike se lake ger diye the yahan jungle mein hum jis tarah ka inka saadan ka koi nahin, na koi inke paas na saadan tha, na baalti, na kuch nahin. Jiske paas sadan tha, baalti, voh apni tarike usmein baithe the. Usi dauran mein bahut zabardast barish aayi. Kuch to isi vajeh se bhag gaye honge, unhone socha hoga ki yahan mar jaaenge. Barsaat ka samay tha. Jiske paas jo saadan tha—kai kai jhuggiyan ek ghar mein baithe the. Kisi ke paas do kaat the, do kaat humare the, bakdi thi. Yeh shuruaat tha. Jab barsaat aaya to itna paani aaya ki idhaar jheel tha. Sab ek jagah mein baithe the, itna pyaar-prem tha, kyaunki nayi jagah thi.
Plot is tarike se kaate the jaise main aur tu, aur ek kursi mein baithe hain aur ek choti-si table laga lete (shouting) Are, yeh kiske naam se! Kiskaa! Teraa aa gaya? Kyaa naam hai tera! Beta, yeh le! Pakd jaao! Yeh kiska hai! Tere kitne hai! Do hai? Nahin ji sirf ekhi hai! To dusra kiska hai? Kya naam hai tera! Yeh le parchi! Pakd le, jaao! Aise plot milaa. Aise do bataa diyaa, do parchi. Teen bataa diya, teen parchi mili. Aisa bhavishya mein aa gaya zindagi, kabhi nahin mil sakte. Mere saamne aisa hua, main 6 saal ka tha.
Yahan bajra tha, aur uske piche—ek number, do number sare khet hi khet the. Block number ek aur do, teen aur chaar bahut bad mein aaya. Sab khet the. Idhar chirag dilli gaon tha, idhar devali tha, kanpur tha, badarpur tha, yeh sara jo hai, inki kheti thi, inke area mein yeh zameen kaati thi, pata nahin bhaiyya unse kharidi thi government ya kyaa, lekin jis taim hum aaye the yahan pey, khali plan tha, aur jungle jungle tha charon taraf. Yeh jungle aur aasman mila hua dikhta tha.
Uske baad jisne toda sa karch le liya, unhone apna toda toda inth la lake, apna banana kaccha, inth se, aur matti ki chunai karke ek ek kamra apna banaye, rehne ke liye. Ab to jake, logon ke paas upar niche upar niche, paisa tha nahin kisi ke pas bhi, garibi thi jhuggi ke tut tutke aaye the, kisi ki arjun nagar se, kisi ki talkatore se, phir hanste hanste sab mein pyar-prem ho gaya, bharti chali gayi aabadi phir, aur jo nyi bhi nahin jante the, to nayi jagah di pyar-prem tha, sab char baje utke duty chalte the. Pehele tha pyar-prem, ab to bhir zyaada hui.
Kone mein koi nahin rehna chaihta tha, sab yeh chaihta tha ki main bich hoon sabke, us taim dar tha, bad mein pata laga ki kimat zyada hoga.
Lekin jo mere ko yaad hai, khelne ka hai. 6 saal ka tha, khele gaye baccha. Accha lagta tha, mitthi ki pure khet tha, khet hi khet mein chale gaye, agar humare ma bap jhuggi mein baithe hue, humein se kam se kam ek kilometer dekh lete the ki humara baccha khel rahe hai, dur tak dikhaye deta tha, to isiliye yad rehta, humara to dil lagta tha.