Ahead of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, Mumbai’s indigenous communities, such as the Agris, Kolis and East Indians, have joined hands under a campaign named AKEI with a theme "Aapla Gaav, Aapla Raaj" to discuss their problems. They will soon be launching their own political party.
The communities have vowed to unite as one to be recognised and treated as genuine stakeholders in the growth of the city while protecting their unique cultures and their lands. Bryce Rodericks, Andheri Taluka Sarpanch, Mobai Gaothan Panchayat (MGP), said, "As the sons of the soil, we have the first right over our native place in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) region. Our culture and our lands are being destroyed in the name of development projects. In turn, we are getting nothing. We have been running from pillar to post to safeguard our gaothans / villages that were being mislabelled as slums in development plans." MGP is an umbrella body that represents the East Indian community. There are over 500 gaothans in Mumbai, Thane, Vasai and Raigad.
The Koli community said that they are feeling both physically and economically strangled by the depletion of the shoreline and by rampant development projects on land. Bhavesh Vaity from Sion Koliwada spoke about the threat to the villages from projects, like the coastal road. "None of the governments have cared about our rights. Our fishing rights and land rights are being violated and tweaked to accommodate development projects. The government has acquired our land, but not provided compensation. For years, we have been running from pillar to post for solutions. Through AKEI, we aim at having an active political representation," Vaity said.
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