Pushta round5 – Seige

Those who sighted in the Gautampuri-2 demolition on
13.02.04 the ghost of Turkman Gate should visit
Shantivan-Vijayghat Pushta for more haunting horror.

On 10.04.04 Poonam and I went to check out together
what media had described on 08.04.04 as peaceful
voluntary operation going on with massive police
deployment under shroud of secrecy, etc, that Poonam
had seen quite differently on 08.04.04 and I had
likewise on 06.04.04 and before.

We were stopped at the barricade set up near Vijayghat
and asked, because of my camera, which media we were
from. We said we taught at SPA and asked which media
comes here. They asked for ID that I do not possess
and Poonam was not carrying. I said they could call
Police Headquarters to verify who we were since our
complaints, etc, were there and a CID inspector had
attended our presentation at IIC on 31.03.04. They
said I could not go in with a camera. I said I could
leave it if they would give me a deposit receipt, as
happens in their Headquarters. They said they had no
official stationery but instructions. I said such
instruction is unconstitutional and asked to see a
copy. They said they did not have to show me anything.
I said they could not stop us then and were free to
send an escort to ensure we do not interfere in their
job of maintaining law and order while we go about our
job as planners and educators. They tried something
about how I was speaking and I said that was
irrelevant and walked past their barricade.

A cop was asked to accompany us and I was warned
against taking pictures. Our escort was obviously
uncomfortable with this unexpected duty and when we
reached the Police post inside went into a huddle with
other cops. We told them we were going to see DDA
officials whom we have already met and they could
escort us also to verify who we are. Under police
escort, we threaded our way through the crowd hopeful
of resettlement that filled the small compound of the
premise where DDA officials are dispensing slips. I
politely asked an official for details of progress and
he politely directed me to an AE in a premise across
the street. Our escort, presumably seeing no duty
amidst politeness, had returned to the Post and after
informing cops at large of our intent we went to find
the AE, who turned out to be on rounds. We were told
no one else could tell us what we were asking and the
AE could be away for hours. We came out and asked the
cops to escort us since we were going to look for the
AE. The cops seemed confused and we walked off.

A big cop stopped us and asked what we were doing. We
explained and asked for escort. He went away and we
went our way. Another big cop stopped us and asked us
again. I insisted they give us escort also so that we
are not hampered in our work by having to stop and
tell every one of hundreds of cops the same thing. A
cop was asked to accompany us. Then we met a rude big
cop, who had met Poonam on 08.04.04 and he asked her
why she was here again. And he asked me which media I
was from and when I said none he said I was lying. I
asked him if he realised that he, in uniform, had
called a citizen a liar. He went into some long-winded
explanation of what he had told Poonam the other day
and I repeated my question and peered at his name
badge and asked for his name. Our escort intervened
and they went into a huddle and we think our escort
was told to walk us out and put us in an auto and
perhaps also to give us some chai-paani. He became
very chatty, mainly insisting that the five bulldozers
were only mopping up after voluntary demolitions, so
we could not chat up anyone else. At the barricade at
the other end we politely thanked him and apologised
for having taken him away from more pressing law and
order duty and said we would manage now since we were
crossing the broder back into free country. He said he
would put us in an auto and would like us to have a
cold drink or tea. We said we were not taking auto but
walking into other part of Pushta, not under siege,
and there is teashop there. He said he did not know
that part of Pushta and we said we do and it is
peaceful village-like.

At the tea shop the cop ordered tea for us and
biscuits for all and generally took charge. I chatted
up others in the shop till I could find a connection
to something else to ask they please take me to meet
someone I had been asked by someone to meet and had
been meaning to. Fortunately someone got up to take us
there. I offered to pay for tea and graciously
accepted when the cop insisted, excused ourselves from
more chat on plea of duty, thanked him for sparing
time for us from his duty, etc.

With the gentleman I (really) had been meaning to
meet, I discussed what I (really) had been meaning to.
And we told about our experiences with the cops and
requested help to find a place to take pictures from.
A young man took us through fields to a stretch
demolished on 09.04.04. A lady and an old man took us
further to another demolished part. Three boys took us
to where one of five bulldozers deployed could be seen
and put us on the path that met the road just outside
the police barricade. None of those whom we met were
sitting amidst debris by choice. None were agitated by
presence of outsiders since they have given up all
hope. Like those I met in Moolchand, a small group
elsewhere I suggested something to and offered to come
around for tomorrow, seemed enthused. But my
experience thus far is that the odds are stacked too
high against sparks of enthusiasm surviving the night
that must be chilling in Pushta.

What is this madness called if not war?


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