They are the first of New Delhi’s dispossessed. Before the first president came to live in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, before the beautifully tended lawns on which Pranab Mukherjee wants to take a morning walk were created, and even after the Coronation Durbar in 1911, Raisina and Malcha were villages—the land where the most significant of our institutions are today housed. The British government decided to shift India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi, a change that reduced thriving villages to Raisina Hill and Malcha Marg, the most upscale areas in Delhi. The villagers did not leave without a fight, 33 were killed when they questioned the land acquisition, and even the compensation awarded was a little over one-hundreth of what the people demanded. A hundred years later, the original settlers of Delhi, who now live in a village in Haryana, have sued the government demanding that the compensation due to their forefathers—which remained largely unclaimed—be paid to them. In our cover story (“Heirs of Raisina”), journalist Arpit Parashar chronicles this struggle, and finds uncanny similarities between land acquisition as it was done 100 years ago and those carried out in Independent India, using the same colonial law.
Our other reportage of the month is the use of DNA profiling by the police in investigations, and the questions of privacy, consent and self-incrimination it raises. In the Cuffe Parade murders case, where three underage girls were raped and murdered in Mumbai within a span of months in 2010-11, more than 1,000 people have been deemed “suspect” by the police and forced to give blood samples for DNA testing. The case is yet to be cracked, though, but the people who have been tested are facing ostracism. Some have even lost jobs. We examine the use of DNA results as evidence, norms for data security, storage and retrieval, at a time when a draft law—by all accounts riddled with ambiguities and lax about the rights of the “suspect”—is set to be tabled before the Parliament.
Northeast India has seen internal displacement of more than a million people over the last 20 years because of ethnic conflicts. Our photo story (“No direction home”) documents the lives of some of these uprooted people in Mizoram.
Don’t miss our interview with Ruskin Bond, whose tales of little boys, ghosts, and haunted forests and houses, were the staple of our childhoods.
I am happy to report that writer Dilip D’Souza, a contributor to Fountain Ink, has won the Newsweek and The Daily Beast Open Hands South Asia commentary prize. His essay “A few good doctors”, about healthcare in rural Chhattisgarh (you can read it at the Fountain Ink website) was part of the writing submitted in consideration for the award.
Saurav Kumar, Editor