Lost in Transition

The Dhaka South City Corporation Colony in Ganaktuli is a place where its residents are at war with life every single day. These Dalits were brought in from different parts of South India almost three hundred years ago by the British Colonial rulers. Even at the time of the partition, these “depressed classes” never went back to their homeland. They were poor, but they had work here, they had stability. In 1962, the then Dacca City Corporation Colony was moved from Azimpur to an abandoned British era tuberculosis hospital in Ganaktuli, which consisted of five four-storied buildings, a total of forty tiny rooms. As they grew in number over the years, the residents built hundreds of one or two storied houses in the nooks and crannies of these original five. Other colonies were made eventually elsewhere, but Ganaktuli is still the main one. Generations have lived here through thick and thin; the roofs were falling, the walls were cracking – but at least they had shelter, and most importantly, each other.

Last year, Dhaka South City Corporation evicted the entire community to demolish and erect new residential buildings. They were not even provided with any substitute homes; only a small compensation was offered, which was of course, not enough. Their entire families dispersed; those who could afford rented nearby, some moved in with their relatives in other colonies. But many of them just got swallowed up in the merciless jaws of this ever-growing city. The ones who are left, all they can do is wonder whether they will ever come together again, and be like they used to be.

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