<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Artistes have to shift to one-room tenements, which they say are too small to store their artworks; they are also concerned that new neighbours may object to their late-evening rehearsals.”We clearly told them to go back. We are not going to let them encroach upon our land,” says Rashmi Singh, 25, a resident of India’s largest artistes’ ghetto — Kathputli Colony, literally meaning the Puppet Colony.The 3,000-odd families in the locality have been living in constant fear of losing their homes to Delhi Development Authority’s (DDA) bulldozers since last week, when DDA officials, accompanied by policemen, asked them to vacate the area and shift to a transit camp at Anand Parbat, till the colony is redeveloped.The residents of the colony include puppeteers, magicians, acrobats, storytellers, folk singers, dancers and painters, among others. Almost all the families, originally from different parts of the country, settled here nearly 45 years ago.”My grandparents, who were puppeteers, moved here from the Alwar district of Rajasthan. Since then, we have been living here. How can the DDA ask us to leave our homeland?” Rashmi asks.On Friday, Delhi Home Minister Satyendar Jain extended his support to Kathputli Colony residents, and wrote a letter to Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, stating that residents were being “forced” to leave the area.The colony was the first slum taken up for in-situ redevelopment by the DDA in 2009, in collaboration with private firm Raheja Developers. As per the plan, families will have to move to single-room temporary houses in a resettlement area in Anand Parbat, till the construction of their permanent houses in the Kathputli Colony is completed.Nearly 500 families had moved to make-shift homes in 2013, while rest of them refused to do so, saying the DDA should give them written assurance that every family would get a house, and also sought to know the time it would take to build their permanent houses. Prabhat Singh, 52, says demolition of Kathputli Colony will also demolish their art. “Can you imagine fitting in artworks of half-a-century in a single-room flat?”he asks.He adds: “The resettlement will affect our freewheeling lifestyle. Once the artistes start living in expensive flats, their lifestyle will change and egos will inflate. We live like gypsies. Our day starts in the evening, when we start practicing, and it goes on till late in the night. Will the new neighbours allow us to organise our rehearsals?” Puran Bhatt, a resident who had been spearheading protests against the DDA, says: “The residents of Kathputli Colony have represented the country throughout the world. Even the government calls us to perform when a foreign delegation visits. But when it comes to our rights, it turns mute.”


Delhi: Kathputli Colony residents fear relocation will kill their art