Radha Rani and her family was thrown to the mercy of uncertainty on a day that promised to be like any other for a struggling sweeper community living in Dhaka.
A group of men stormed into her house and before the hour had passed Rani was seeing her house turned upside down and family hurled out of what she was calling home for so long.
Before the day could end, Rani, a sweeper of Dhaka City Corporation, saw her house being torn down and reduced to a pile of rubbish before her very own eyes.
Like her, the eviction drive at Gonoktuli Colony in Dhaka’s Hajaribagh left hundreds of low-living sweeper community people homeless on February 13, 2019.
Now, many others like her are still dwelling in other buildings of the colony, fearing that fate would strike down on them without warning at any time.
“We knew that the buildings would be demolished, but we did not know the exact day,” Rani told The Daily Star. “We were not notified to vacate our houses on that day.”
Being a member of a community that is looked down upon, life is proving to be very difficult for “untouchables” like her. “Nobody wants us as tenants.”
The city corporation has given Tk 45,000 to its evicted sweepers for a temporary arrangement on Beribadh Road and Tk 20,000 for people who are not enlisted with the city corporation.
Now, hundreds of other families are still residing in the colony with uncertainty of eviction hanging over their head, Moni Rani, president of Bangladesh Dalit Bonchito Jonogosthi Odhikar Andolon, told The Daily Star.
Project Director Asaduzzaman, chief estate officer of Dhaka South City Corporation, told The Daily Star there has been a communication gap with the residents of Gonoktuli Colony.
“The problem is temporary which will be soon resolved by taking appropriate measures,” he said. “A committee has been formed to rehabilitate the sweepers.”
Moushumi Rani, housewife to a husband who works for the city corporation, says: “Our family has been living here (Gonoktuli) for generations. We are also citizens of Bangladesh, and we cast vote for the government but now we are living like a refugees.”
She said that the temporary arrangement on Beribad Road has no access to basic amenities including gas and water supply, and toilet facilities.
The Gonoktuli City Corporation Colony was established on 20 acres of land near what was Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) Headquarters back then for a hospital. Later it was turned into a sweepers' colony for the city corporation.