On slum evictions & slum arsons under neoliberal urban policy

Nepalese Dalit child evicted from slum ((Photo by Bikash Dware:Reuters) Jan 24 2017

This heart-rending photo from May 2012 showed up on my newsfeed because I posted about it on January 24, 2013. The little guy is holding his baby sister after riot police in Kathmandu, Nepal forcibly evicted Dalit families who had set up an illegal settlement in an area targeted for gentrification.

The government of Nepal which took power in 2008 is often heralded as socialist by those who think the Soviet Union under Stalin represented the highest achievements of human civilization rather than a new form of barbarism.

Nepal’s government achieved power by talking socialism but began working with the IMF, World Bank, & multinational agribusiness interests & instead of delivering equality are imposing neoliberal economic policies which require rural land expropriations & privatization of public lands for development purposes. “Development” meaning upscale condos & shopping malls, resorts, golf courses, swank offices for multinational investors, sweatshops. These slum evictions began early under the so-called socialist government.

For many years, I’ve written about forcible slum evictions & slum fires for purposes of neoliberal development & always wondered why no intrepid investigative journalists were pursuing the story. Slum fires are a constant in Bangladesh, India, & the Philippines; forcible slum evictions are a constant in Nepal, Cambodia, Nigeria, Brazil, & several other countries.

Serendipitously I saw this post today on the FB wall of Meena Kandasamy in India who says his source is “highly reliable”:

“Slums are being hunted down, ransacked, burnt & the people are beaten down. Many people are missing. Police are still at Pattinapakkam, Nadukuppam, Nochikuppam slums & picking up people & thrashing them. There is no media coverage, & the blackout of information is because the media is being taken over by the state.
“Poor slum people are becoming the target. Police themselves are burning their vehicles. They also have orders to open fire.”

This is the first time, after years of following this, I’ve seen reports of violence against slum residents except, of course, in those several countries where they physically resist forcible eviction & face down bulldozers–most notably but not only in the Philippines. Now in the Philippines, forcible slum evictions dovetail with Duterte’s vigilante war on poor people & have made them even more violent toward residents.

Investigating these slum evictions & fires would be a dangerous assignment because one would be messing with the the thuggish forces of the real estate industry (we’re talking Trump) but that has not stopped human rights groups in several countries from doing so.

Slum evictions are a big component of neoliberal urban economic policies & human rights advocates should be paying careful attention to what is going on.

(Photo by Bikash Dware/Reuters)