A poultry seller who has been living with his family in Kariyammana Agrahara for the last three years, Ayub Baig said it's ridiculous to evict people simply for speaking a particular language.
“Tell Mr Modi I speak all languages found in India. From Bengali to Kannada to Telugu, and Assamese. Just because we live together with the Assamese and others speaking Bengali, it doesn’t make us outsiders. Where will I get 40-year-old documents from?” he said.
Migrant camps, particularly in Bellandur and Marathahalli, that have come under the scanner of authorities for allegedly housing ‘illegal Bangladeshis’, have workers from all parts of the country, including Karnataka’s own backyard.
In a drive that was later declared ‘unauthorised’ by the city commissioner, over 100 one-room homes or ‘sheds’ as they are locally called, were demolished on Saturday in Kariyammana Agrahara, in eastern Bengaluru. The Karnataka HC on Wednesday, 22 January, stayed all demolition activity and asked the BBMP and police to submit a report on the grounds of which the huts were razed.
“We are living together like brothers. They came and destroyed our homes and asked us to get out. Where will we go? If we could afford to live in a better place, why would we come and stay in this jhopdi (slum)? ” Baig asked, pointing at his now demolished hut built for housing hens.
Baig is not alone.
In the scattered camps and settlements that make up Kariyammana Agrahara, The Quint found migrants from Raichur, Ballari, Koppal, Kolar, Yadgir, Bijapur among others, who rued not just the constant fear of eviction but also the irony of being called an outsider in their own state. Many, however, were too afraid to identify themselves.
While some have lost their homes to the illegal demolition, others moved out just in time to another settlement nearby, losing deposits and belongings. Many have been threatened by authorities to vacate their homes or face eviction in the coming weeks.
Karanna, a daily-wager from Koppal who also lost his home on Saturday, said that he was disappointed with how the government was behaving.
“We were happy when Modi came to power, we thought some good will happen. But no, this is how we are being treated in our own land. Tell me, is Koppal in Bangladesh? Where are we supposed to go?” he asked.
‘We Ran Away to Save Our Belongings’
Vinayak Thimmaiah, hailing from Bijapur, rushed to save his family and their belongings, when the demolition started.
“It had started happening in a small way for the last week. They were targetting pockets in different areas. I knew we would lose everything if we stayed, so with my wife, kids and mother, I moved away from that settlement in Kariyammana Agrahara, that saw demolition on Friday. I had to forgo a Rs 5,000 deposit but I knew I would lose more if I stayed,” he said, speaking from his present house, about 400 metres away, where they have been living for 10 days.
They kept telling us to leave no matter what, he said.
“They didn’t listen to us. But now, we can’t even take them out of school yet, the school won’t give a transfer certificate in case we want to return. We have to live here,” he said.
“We had a lot of loans, we had no land, no work here, we came here to earn. Why else would we come here?,” asked his aged mother Ailabai.
‘Came Here for Better Prospects’
Chandragiri, hailing from Raichur moved here with his family two years ago. He used to be a farmer, but owing to bad rains and increasing costs, he came here to escape extreme poverty. He says authorities keep issuing threats that they will get evicted.
“We can’t return to Raichur if they throw us out. There is no life for a Kannadiga even in Karnataka. Why are they chasing us out of Bengaluru? How should a poor man sustain himself?” he asked.
He added that the government and police were unfairly targetting natives of Karnataka while attempting to get illegal immigrants out of the country.
“There is nothing but drought in north Karnataka, only poverty and suffering. We came here to make a living. They should support Kannadigas,” he said.
‘It Was a Wrong Move to Shift to Bengaluru’
Having come to town only two days ago, Mahesh from Yadgir, said that he did not expect the situation to be so grim in Bengaluru, where people came to seek their fortune.
“They should check their companies records and verify who is Indian or not. Just coming here without any notice and throwing people out, that too, Kannadigas is not done. People live like family, and to come and divide them on the basis of religion or anything else is bad. Now, despite being Kannadiga, we are afraid,” he said.
Adding that everyone was scared of speaking to the press, Mahesh said he finds himself in an odd dilemma – whether or not to return home – on seeing the inhospitable environment in town.
“Other Kannadigas are asking us to leave. They said it’s so bad, why have you come here? I thought this will be more profitable than farming but now it seems like a bad idea,” he said.