World’s Largest Artist Colony Faces Eviction

Kathputli Colony, New Dehli, India Photo: Jon Augustine via:

The world’s largest artist colony, a collective of performers based in New Delhi, India, is being threatened with eviction, the Huffington Post has reported.

Kathputli Colony began in the 1950s and remains home to 3,000 families. Puppeteers, monkey tamers, snake charmers, singers, acrobats, and many others live in basic accommodation and squalid conditions in the the so-called magician’s ghetto.

As New Delhi has developed into a major city the land that the artists have inhabited for generations has risen in value. Consequently the area has become desirable for powerful property developers who are competing to redevelop the site.

According to the report, the civic organization, which owns the land, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), is planning to evict the current residents and use the space to build luxury apartments and a shopping center.

The DDA is trying to entice current residents to leave their homes with an improvement in lifestyle by way of housing in modern apartment complexes.

However, the residents are skeptical. The artists insist that their current lifestyle and their art are inextricably linked. Aziz Khan, a magician, told Time Magazine “Our lifestyle is our identity, the lifestyle of a multistory building is not for us.”

Meanwhile the DDA is losing patience. Last month, increasing incidents of police violence against residents took place. Victims including men, women and children as young as 15 reported baton beatings and tear gas attacks. One of the residents blamed “middle class India” for the eviction, adding that folk artists are “at odds with the image of India as a rising power.”

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