Sion Koliwada: Land of Mumbai’s oldest residents under immediate threat

Sion Koliwada is a settlement of the indigenous Koli or fisherfolk community of Mumbai. They are the original inhabitants of the city. A GR from 1939 proves that the Kolis have been living here since then.

GR proving Kolis were inhabitants since 1939

In 1999, builder Sudhakar Shetty approached the residents with plans to redevelop the land. When he did not get the requisite 70% consent, he forged signatures on the consent forms. On one consent form dated  20/7/1999, is the signature of Eknath Koli who had died two years ago in 1997. Another consent form has the signature of Lilabai Vishnu Patil, signed in English, even though Lilabai is actually illiterate and has only ever used thumb prints for all her official documents.

Consent Form with forged signature- Eknath Koli

Death certificate of Eknath Koli

Consent form with forged signature- Lilabai V Patil

Lilabai Patil thumb impression (proves that her signature was forged)

In 2006, Sudhakar Shetty’s construction company, Sahana Developers, demolished two chawls  (hutments) next to the Koliwada, that were built on the Education Department’s land. The land used to house a primary school which was later used as 7 residential quarters for teachers.  On this land, the builder constructed three rehabilitation buildings for the Koliwada to shift into. How he got permission to demolish the chawls and build on the Education Department’s land is a mystery even to the BMC. An RTI filed by the residents of the Koliwada demanding to know where the teachers were moved, found the BMC clueless.

On the 29th of May 2012, 60 policemen accompanied a BMC demolition squad to the basti. People stood in front of their homes to protest this illegal demolition. Police Officer Anant Rathe physically attacked Sunil Koli, a resident of the Koliwada and ordered his police force to strip women off their sarees if they stood in the way.

Police attack on May 31st Click for video

Frank Fernandes, Nelson Fernandes, Jayavanti Shivkar, Kalpesh Shivkar, Mayuri Koli, Indira Koli and Sunil Koli, along with Medha Patkar were dragged into the police vans and taken away to the Sion police station.  The police refused to take an FIR on the two cops’ misbehaviour.  Residents of slums from Golibar, Ambujwadi and Kandamwar Nagar came to the police station to support the Koliwada folk. Aruguments continued with the police until 8.30 yet no FIR was registered.

On 30th May 2012, the community got together to rebuild Kalpesh Shivkar’s house. The builder had in the meantime gathered about 50 of his security people and along with the police, tried preventing the people from rebuilding their house. The people sat adamantly, refusing to allow it to be demolished again. Two police vans and about 40 police people stayed on the whole night at the basti. Even the ACP, a senior police officer, sat outside the Chroma store across the road till much past midnight.

The next day on the 31st of May 2012, at about 5 pm, the police arrived again. Women from the Koliwada, Ambujwadi and Kandamwar Nagar were sitting on a peaceful protest when the police started to drag them away, many by their hair, into the waiting police vans. Madhuri Shivkar, Indira Shivkar, Jaywanti Koli, Pauline Nelson Fernandes, Komal Shivkar, Nanda Shivkar, Chitra Shivkar, Radhabai Ghode, Jaya Kharat, Kasabai Kondiramaghode, Lalitabai Doble, Salma Sheikh, Sindhubai Sonawane, Vijaya Keni, Mayuri Shivkar, Gnyaneshwari Shivkar, Vrushali Haredkar, Manju Aadityasingulibhana, Ganga Omprakashlubhana, Sangita Kharat, Sumitrabai Dhondibakamble, Vimal Dhoble, Laxmi Katur, Munni Sheikh, Sangita Misal from Koliwada and Jamil Bhai from Ambujwadi were arrested and taken to Sion Police Station. These 25 people were charged with Section 143, 147, 149, 152, 332, 353, 504 & 506. Madhuri Shivkar was additionally charged with Section 447 and 34.

List of people arrested

The police station gates were locked and no one was allowed in. There were reports that the women were thrashed and although no one was allowed inside, a police van with the arrested went to the hospital. Among the arrested is Munni Sheikh of Kandamwar Nagar whose 6-month-old child has been left without her mother for over 24 hours. Munni was also beaten inside the police station.

The hearing at Kurla Court took place on 1st June at 3 pm and they have been put under judicial custody for the next 3-4 days.

We request journalists to report on this grave issue of human rights abuse and the massive land scam that is taking place in Sion Koliwada. Contact Madhuri Shivkar’s number at 09892143242 for more information.

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