Dharavi - Interview with Vinayak Koli, President of Dharavi Koliwada
Director: Richa Hushing
Duration: 00:39:19; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 31.630; Saturation: 0.024; Lightness: 0.272; Volume: 0.193; Cuts per Minute: 7.554; Words per Minute: 108.474
Summary: Koliwadas in Mumbai are prominent features, both in terms of landscape and culture. These are fishing villages and the oldest settlements in the region. The Portuguese missionaries converted the Koli people into Christians in 16th century. Koli is a distinct community in terms of features, cultures, traditional occupation and dialect. Especially Koli women can be identified easily even in a crowd. As the land grew into a city and then into a metropolis, urban development and migrant influx have been sweeping the city in phases. With every such phase kolis have got more and more isolated and vulnerable. Dharavi Koliwada is particularly vulnerable as the water body in Dharavi, the creek, got completely dried up few decades ago. Though all other fishing villages in the city and in the surrounding region too have got affected to an extent by the onslaught of development, no other water body has dried up as irreparably as the one in Dharavi.
The once prosperous fishing hamlet is now facing extinction. The proposed redevelopment is made to gentrify the entire area. Once situated at the North-West border of the city, Dharavi has now become a prime land in the middle of the city. The dense settlement of low rise houses needs to go in order to extract more commercial value out of the precious land. The scheme proposes rehabilitation of all inhabitants in small tenements in the sky scrapers. The scheme suits some of the inhabitants whose livelihood is not necessarily located within Dharavi and not dependant on use of space. But others whose livelihood depends on the unique social structure and spatial arrangement of the settlement are strongly opposing this process of homogenizing the area.
Vinayak Narayan Koli is the president of the Dharavi Koliwada community office he represents the community to the outside. Dharavi koliwada is an independent village that has its own panchayat to look into the community matters, for long they also have leaders from their own community standing for the post of corporators in the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipality Corporation) elections. But all these people and their voices have failed to make an impact on the way the government is treating this sensitive matter which holds one whole community at stake. On the occasions of religious celebrations the hindu right wing party, Shiv Sena donates money to please people, during the times of elections also various steps are taken by these parties like extension of cut-off dates for rehabilitation, increase in the size of the house they will get in return of redevelopment; to expand and maintain their vote bank. But when it comes to actually saving the kolis from extinction the government leaves them to fend for themselves.
Kolis the indigenous community of Dharavi Koliwada has been living in an independent set up of a village. A fully functional governance system with a village head, community centers looking into the community matters and solving conflicts and problems among the villagers. But the recent steps taken by the Bombay government is posing a grave threat to the well being of the whole community. Their traditional occupation of fishing has suffered a set back after the authorities ignored their cry of help time and again. The creek which was their source of fishes got polluted beyond repair by the industrial waste disposed in the water; the sea became an inaccessible territory due to the presence of big trawlers which appeared as giants in front of their rickety small wooden boats. And now the proposed redevelopment plan might take away their homes and the village that the kolis have inhabited for generations.
Vinayak (V): We have only one patil (community head) in our village he takes all the decisions for the community.
Rrivu: What about this house?
V: This is his brother's house. The one who is appointed right now lives in the outer side. Little ahead is the highway road, people used to dry fish there.
Richa (R): They dry fish?
V: Yes, like we used to do in Dharavi and how they still do in Versova. Bombil and other dry fishes. They make a structure of bamboo and hang the fishes on it to dry.
This is the prayer house of kolis. She is my grandmother, when my mother was little she used to stay with her. And her mother's house is on the other side.
R: Is this her house?
V: Yes this is her house she is sitting outside just for some fresh air. Her children will be coming back from work, she is waiting for them.
R: I would like to take her interview.
V: Okay, you can come back later.
Koliwada has remnants of olden day, even if the architecture is virtually not the same the old spaces are deeply imbedded in the minds of the people and are still used as reference points. The area where the Dharavi port used to be has been replaced by a road, the custom office is in shambles, and the boats are not visible. The creek has transformed into nothing but sewage.
The fishing business which was under kolis from catching to selling has now just reduced to the selling part and that is also not autonomous to them, with many from outside the community coming into the business.
The fear of losing the land that the community has occupied for generations and which according to the common belief among people was a reward from Queen Elizabeth.
Even after this depletion the kolis do not want to leave the traditions of their community instead the community is attempting to get stronger with the local leaders getting across their voices in the state level politics.
V: This is the new house that I have made, would you like to shoot here?
R: No, the sun is going down right now, we will come later.
V: We have two traditions in koli, Christian and Hindu. Both exist together here. This is my mother, her husband used to work for the koli community and he was the ex-secretary of the community.
W1: Where will we go if we leave this beautiful house?
R: What, what did you say?
V: She is saying that she does not want to leave this house; she is talking about the redevelopment plan.
Do you want to go inside the house?
R: No, not right now. We are here for few days, we will come later.
R: What is this in front?
V: This used to be the custom office that I was talking about. All the boats used to be parked here. From here till highway the whole area has been encroached upon. This has been here since the time of britishers, the boats used to be checked here. Like the Bandra port, Vasai and Versova ports issue slips (give permission) for fishing, it used to happen here. The boats used to be parked from here till CST Kurla, and during Holi they would conduct racing competitions of the boats. And there were about 100 boats, here was the port. I used to live here, now since the family expanded I shifted out. I used to live near the fish market in the village, I will take you there. The original koliwada starts from here, we used to dry fish here but now it has been encroached by filling it with sand. When the high tide used to come here, the whole area would become marshy and when it would dry we used to play cricket on it. All the secretaries now, when young used to play cricket here. Now a PNBT building has been made over there, the building was made due to the efforts of our leader who is a corporator, Keni. He was the leader of the assembly in BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipality Corporation) and he was not getting a seat, so we kolis went to Bala Sahib Thakeray to say that we want our corporator from our own community. So he considered our request and Keni was given an election seat and also made a corporator. And he won the elections.
The tour of the village shows that it has undergone some level of modernization. The construction of the house is like any modern house in the city, the new construction and added floors are now serving as the new source of income for the kolis. With the decline in the fishing business giving out houses on rent especially to the migrant population coming in the city seems as the only way of survival for the families.
V: All these constructions are new, since fishing business declined so people increased the floor of their houses and gave it on rent. This helps them get food for the family and to take care of their children's education. There are no jobs anywhere so they make double triple floors and give it on rent. They get about 1000-1200 rupees as rent which help them with the expenditure.
Rrivu: Are you talking about these houses?
V: This is the old Dutt temple, it has finished about 100 years now.
The koliwada have a fish market within their vicinity to sell their catch. But with the increase in population the market had to be extended to accommodate more people. The market space becomes much more crucial now as selling fishes is the only surviving tool for the kolis. The koli men do not have much option left but to take up unskilled work as the skill acquired from their elders is no longer useful for them. The younger lot has taken up professions outside of the community traditions as they saw no scope in fishing.
The demography of Dharavi is very interesting it is neatly divided into various communities. Though a lot of intermixing happened due to migrants and renting out of houses, but traditionally the area has been divided among Koliwada, Kumbharwada, Makadwali, Tamils and Muslims.
V: In the main market inside about 60-70 women sit to sell fish. Due to the decline in fishing, men had no work to do so the women started selling fishes here for their livelihood. The main market is inside, then we extended it and this is the market outside and their families are surviving on it. Men generally get jobs of watchmen, security guards. The community office also provides some help with books and other material to the families for their children's education. Now almost 80 percent of the houses have well educated children. At least they study beyond HSC (Higher Secondary Certificate), some are engineers, CA (Charted Accountant) and doctors, and they are original kolis. My son has done engineering diploma he is working with Godrej and has gone to Pune now.
This is Koliwada's last house, beyond this live South Indians and their area is called rasbilli chawl. And beyond that muslims live, from there till Abu Dhabi bank, muslims live. From here to where we entered from is entirely koliwada. I am saying it again, the kolis started keeping people on rent and they took whoever came, for money. But proper kolis live from here till the entry, we have about 250-300 houses. Now where do you want to go do you want to see Holi maidan?
R: No, let's go to your house and take your interview.
Richa (R): What is your name?
V: Vinayak Narayan Koli.
R: Since when have you been living here?
V: We have been living here since 3-4 generations. I was born here, and according to my information so was my father, grandfather and great grandfather, so from about 4-5 generations.
R: Can you tell us in detail, where was the creek, where did people go for fishing? Then about the development around here… can you tell the history in detail. What have been the changes and what is the impact of this on koli community.
In 82-84 sewage water from Kurla was left in the Dharavi creek, the creek was destroyed. The fishes died due to the smell of the sewage water. Due to this the kolis of Dharavi reached a stage of starvation. So for the survival, families started working outside on contract basis on 1500-1800 rupees as daily salary. And women started selling fishes.
Now that there is shortage of fishes, they have to go to Sassoon Dock market, Malad market, and whole sale market like Versova. They have to buy in whole sale and sell in retail here. This is how they have to manage, they have to go at 4 in the morning to Sassoon Dock and they get the fish from there to the market here at 9 am. They have to get ice to sell the fish. All this expense they should be able to afford. Due to all these expense and because of the lobby of bhaiyas in the fishing business, now these people have even started going for fishing on boats. The encroachment by people from UP, Bihar, due to that we kolis…
These bhaiyas go from door to door to sell fish, and due to that no one comes to market. That is why this market is in this condition. If the customers are getting fish at their door step, why will they come to market? So our koli women keep sitting idle in the fish market trying to fan away the flies on the fish, because no customer comes. The bhaiyas sell all kind of fish and since the other people and Maharasthrian people have less knowledge about fishes. I have seen it with my own eyes in train how these bhaiyas handle fishes in their tub. When these bhaiyas go to buy fish from whole sale markets, Sassoon Dock; they buy cheap quality. Because they should be able to afford it, they do not store fish in ice like koli women do to keep them fresh. They just sell it the way they buy it. Whatever profit they make is good for them. They do not take care of fish.
The creek holds the utmost importance for kolis, since the depletion of the water in the creek their fishing occupation has declined. The kolis voices were not heard when they were protesting about the damage done to their creek. No regulations were put on the companies when they were disposing their harmful chemical water to the creek, the fish started to die due to the chemicals and slowly the amount of catch reduced to the nil.
Now the Koli women have to go to wholesale markets to buy fish to sell in their markets. The daily schedule has not only become much more strenuous but it is also very degrading for the fishing community to do business like the outsiders.
The community is also protesting against the migrant men from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who are popularly known as bhaiyas. These men also buy fish from the wholesale market but they go around selling it on foot from one locality to another, this creates a lot of problem for the fisher women who sit in the fish markets as the customers do not come to the market anymore thus adding to the problems of kolis.
Vinayak also complains about the unhygienic conditions, in which the bhaiyas keep the fish, they do not store it in ice like the kolis practice. He also expresses his resentment against the migrants by saying that they do not have much knowledge about fish, the kolis traditionally know about the quality and varieties. According to him the outsiders are not doing justice to the fishing industry.
The process of getting fish to sell in the markets by the koli women is long and tedious. Vinayak Koli explains the whole process in detail and which starts early in the morning , the amount of money which is spend in just acquiring the catch and transporting it to market might not be any close to the sales they do.
The fishing business among the kolis is very organized the women have a set assigned place in the market where they have to sit and sell, even after marriage in any other koliwada the women have to come back to their assigned place to sell. Obviously the migrants who started selling fish at people's doorstep won over the customers who now do not prefer to go to the fish market to buy.
The importance of one's traditional occupation is evident in the manner the kolis are struggling hard to keep fishing alive. Not even for an instant it seems that they are envious of the smarter way of selling of the bhaiyas and have not attempted to imitate it. Instead they condemn their way and there is a great sense of pride in their indigenous way of working.
V: Like our women, when they buy from Sassoon dock, they have to pay to the guy who conducts the auction, and then the person who carries it to tempo has to be paid too. Then they have to pay the tempo that takes them to VT station or Church gate station. Then the helper who carries it to the train. The ticket collector at the station they also trouble them a lot, even if they have luggage pass, they still take fine from them. Fine of 50-60 rupees is taken from them by force. Destination station, like if they have to come to Dharavi, they will get down at Mahim or Bandra. If they get down at Bandra, so the helper from platform to the rickshaw or tempo. Then they have to pay for the rickshaw till the market. Then the helper who gets the fish inside the market, and the municipality charges for the market, like 10-15 rupees per basket. Then they have to buy ice to keep the fishes fresh and to keep the market clean they have to pay a person who gets water to clean the market, they have to be paid per bucket 10 rupees.
Only if they keep the place clean, will customers come. It is not the same with bhaiyas, they just cover the fish with cloth, and I have seen it myself in the train's luggage compartment from Church gate between 8:30 to 9 in the morning. I have seen it always, how they handle fish those who sell it at door step.
Our women can not do the same they have one place fixed in the market where they sell. The women from here can not go and sell in Mahim she has a permanent place here, where she has to spend the day. Even after marriage she has to come here and sell. That place is registered at her name, my wife also sells fish and she goes to Borivali, because she is from Borivali, she has her place in Borivali so she has to sell it there, she can not come in this market. Only people from this village can sit here, and others in their market. The places are confirmed and fixed for people from each village. Where will people go…I told you how people have to starve due to the decline in the fishing business, so families in which men used to go fishing, now their women had to go out to sell fishes. They have to sit in the market for the survival of the family. Then we extended the market, earlier there were 40-50 women in the market now there are 100-120 women. Because everyone has a stomach to feed.
Church Gate station
Victoria Terminus Station
door to door sale
whole sale market
R: You were saying that you used to get fishes from here, what happened to that place, can we go there?
V: That place does not exist now, we saw that place, and custom office there also nothing is left. Earlier they used to unload the fishes from the boats there.
R: What happened to all the boats?
V: People sold the boats. Now in Dharavi Koliwada no one has a boat, everyone sold it. Since the boat is made of wood, if it does not go in water regularly the wood gets spoilt and develop gaps in between. So when it goes back in water the water will get in through the gap and it will drown. So everyone sold their boats.
R: Selling the boats is the biggest loss for the koli community's tradition.
V: Yes it is a big loss. If there are no kolis and boats in Koliwada then it is the biggest loss for the Koliwada's tradition. If there is no boat in Koliwada then the whole beauty of Koliwada is lost, and there is no fun then.
Now if you go to Worli Koliwada you will see boats there, same in Khar danda, Versova, Mudh and Colaba. But there are no boats in Dharavi.
The problem is that since there is no creek now, so there is no fishing and then why will one keep boats. But since there is no boat this does not look like Koliwada.
That is why the politicians have decided to remove the name of this Koliwada from the list. And this redevelopment is not for Koliwada, it is for Dharavi.
The politicians want to remove the name of this Koliwada from the government's list. Since there is no creek now, then how are we koli? This is their aim. The politicians only wake up during elections that kolis are the kings; they are the original inhabitants of Mumbai. Then after elections, no one asks for us, whichever party it is.
R: How do you attempt to save your traditions as of now? How will you retain Koliwada?
V: To save our tradition, we have festivals like Holi, Khambadev and our specific koli festival are our tradition which we keep intact. This fish market, this is ours, it does not belong to municipality. Koliwada has developed it. Even people who have left this place, like those who belong to other states and Maharashtrians, come back to the market. The specialty of this place, wam and tuna. They come here. You will not find it in any other Koliwada. You will not find cheaper fishes anywhere other than Dharavi market.
Because poor people do the fish business here, and they do it for poor customers, that is why the fish is cheap here. And people from every class benefit from this. As for other traditions, I showed you Dutt temple and Holi maidan. We have to struggle to retain all this. If big towers are made here, we will loss all our traditions. If you talk about kolis tradition then its Holi/ Shimga, now we call it Holi, earlier it was called Shimga. We also celebrate Ganpati festival traditionally; same way Khambadev festival is also celebrated in its traditional form. This way we try to save our traditions.
The kolis are having a difficult time saving their community and now they also can not claim the benefits of a traditional community. The creek has dried up, men do not go out in the sea to catch fish and the boats are nowhere to be seen in this koliwada thus the chances of being removed from the community list are escalating. According to the government only the Mahadev kolis, sub sects of kolis are eligible for reservations thus closing the gates of any alternate profession for these kolis. And since they have been away from the mainstream practice of professional education for generations it is extremely difficult for them to now enter the job market.
In order to save their traditions the kolis celebrate their festivals with great enthusiasm. The Holi of dharavi koliwada is the grandest in the whole of Maharashtra. These festivals being largely Hindu gets a huge backing from the political parties like Shivsena, who manage to please the people by donating money to the community for the celebration. Kolis are mostly Hindus and even those who converted to Christianity are very much aware of their hindu roots, they participate in most of the hindu festivals thus making koliwada culturally a hindu community.
khar danda koliwada
whole sale market
The kolis have devised a way to continue with their tradition of fishing. Since there are no fishes to be found in the creek, some people have started with artificial breeding process where they get small fishes and breed them. These fishes are then sold in the fish market. The artificial process is not similar to the real catching of the fish that these men are trained for, but it still keeps them in touch with their traditional profession.
Setting up of these stations and hiring labour to take care of them is an expensive affair and thus is restricted to the already rich of koliwada.
V: The koli women who buy fish from whole sale have not stopped the fishing business.
R: Even when the creek got destroyed?
V: We have not stopped the fishing business. Catching fish, selling it and also breeding fish is like a label for us. Even when the creek got damaged, they made stations near the green patch in the creek. In the space there, they breed fishes. Prawns and other fishes are bred; there are 30-40 breeding stations there.
R: Can you show us?
V: We will have to go through marshy area.
R: That is fine with us.
V: When the tide brings water in the creek. We let out the dirty water and fill in with fresh water. Then we close the door, this is an artificial breeding process. Then they have also put black fish and crab and they also do vegetation of sweet water. About 30-40 people do fishing there and they breed fish. Fishes from those stations also come in the market for sale.
R: Where is it exactly?
And can you tell us more about agars?
V: They made holes in the creek, by removing the mud from that and they made boundaries around that. The height of the boundary was little higher than the water level, so that the dirty, flowing water of the creek does not go inside, so the boundary was made on all the four sides. They started the breeding process in the holes and they employed people to take care of it.
R: Where does the tide come from in the creek?
V: From Mahim creek. When the tide comes we remove the old water from the hole. The fresh water from the tide is put in the holes. Because the salt water is good for fish and it's breeding. When the tide comes again in 8-15 days the old water is let go and the new one is put, this is how we take care of the fishes.
Koliwada comprises of village like independent structures. Their livelihood is already endangered, now with the redevelopment scheme they also might loose their ancient rights over the land and traditional culture.
Koli is a very close knit community, where they do not live like independent families but like one big family. The festivals are celebrated together with everyone from the community.
As the camera moved in the village many people were seen sitting outside their homes, the doors of the houses open directly to the road. Most of the families are related to each other due to marriages within the community. For such a close knit community to even think about living in high rise buildings is a nightmare. Kolis traditionally like open space, it does not go down well with them to think of living in a 225 sq feet flat on some 5th, 6th floor.
After loosing their traditional occupation of fishing this koliwada village is the only place which reminds them of their past, the original inhabitants of the city will be lost in the crowd if their loss their village too.
R: The tradition is based on the place where it exists, if you are not able to retain the place then the tradition will also not be retained. Tell us something about it?
V: That is why we are protesting the redevelopment. If we have to save the tradition, we need to save the place too. Now according to DRP (Dharavi Redevelopment Plan), we will get 300-350 sq feet, how will our family survive there? How will we retain our traditions in a building? The way we are able to do in this village. There are lots of restrictions in the building there is a watchmen, parking lot, society rules. Everyone has their doors locked in the building. But here everyone lives together their doors are open the whole day. If I go out for work and by mistake if my house is open, my neighbour will look after my house. In buildings all houses are closed all the time. In koliwada lot of visitors keep coming to your house, so there are people coming and going all the time. We are habituated to it, if we go to a building where everything is shut, it will not suit us.
Kolis are used to living together in communion we are together in happy as well as sad moments. This is our tradition.
You go anywhere in Koliwada, you will not find any house with shut door, of course if one has gone out of station then it is different. So we will not be able to retain our tradition in a building. We have requested government to let us stay here and increase our FSI (Floor Space Index), so that next generation can increase it to 1+1 or 1+2 and they can stay here.
So we are trying for that and we are also successful as the last government has assured us to increase the FSI to 3. Now let us see.
R: This FSI increase is promised for your houses here in Dharavi?
V: Yes, here in existing Dharavi. We need to stay here in order to save our heritage. Even if we go to buildings after increasing the FSI, the question of retaining traditions will remain the same.
R: What is your objective, to save the place or the tradition?
V: Both, this area is also ours and thus part of our tradition. This area does not belong to municipality, this is our place. We pay assessment tax to the government, this is our private land. That is why we asked for increase in FSI, so that the next generation can construct floors and live here.
We have no issues with redevelopment of other areas, but not Koliwada, we have to save our tradition.
dharavi redevelopment plan (drp)
floor space index (fsi)
On Dharavi Redevelopment Plan (DRP) Vinayak's response comes across as safe and diplomatic. It does not resonate with what other people of dharavi had to say about the redevelopment. In an interview we had done with Vinayak's mother (Dharavi Koliwada- Interview with Koli Women Part 1 and 2) she had rebukingly shunned the scheme.
His concern is to retain the traditions of the community, if it is possible to do so within the redevelopment plan he is happy to accept it.
R: Koliwada says leave our area, Kumbharwada says leave our area. So what do you think will happen to Dharavi?
V: The growing phases of Dharavi… see we have taken out Koliwada from the DRP plan. When we see the redevelopment in the neighbourhood, we will decide whether to participate or not. Right now we have no plan for development, but when we see in the neighbourhood, we will decide.
We have also spoken to the officers, we are not opposing koliwada redevelopment per se, and if we get development according to our traditions we will not mind.
If the redevelopment keeping our traditions intact, we will inspect surrounding places and then we will talk to the kolis and try to convince them for the plan.
People are not against redevelopment, and if we get development with our tradition, we will think about it.
dharavi redevelopment plan (drp)
Dharavi as a residential- commercial settlement has never been designed by a town planner, its architecture and topology is very much part of the culture and the lifestyle of the people inhabiting the space. Thus the people of dharavi are hesitant to give in to the scheme. The koli community which looks into the welfare of the community is closely following the developments of the scheme, there is a sense of not being wanting to be left behind but with that comes the fear of losing the past.
R: All this demand and whatever you say, to formalize it you need a group. Does it happen in the community office? What are the functions of the koli community office?
V: In the community office, we do research about the redevelopment plan. Right now we are not interested in redevelopment let it happen in surrounding areas, we will think about it then. We have told the officers to do it first in surrounding areas and then we will think. There are lots of private builders and we will get it done from the builders who will bring maximum profit to Koliwada. In the Koliwada trust, we work for the celebration of all festivals, towards koli's welfare, we run the village government (panchayat) and we give first priority to children's education. All these are the functions of our trust.
R: The border of the village is given special importance, what do you think about it?
V: The koliwada village is a matter of pride for us. The government has also very clearly written that Dharavi koliwada village should be removed from the Dharavi Redevelopment Plan. They also believe that this is a koliwada village and it has been so from generations. MHADA (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) officers also say that this is the existing koliwada. The place where kolis live is koliwada village.
This house that we are sitting is the last house of koliwada the house from where we came near the highway is patil's house that is where koliwada begins. Koliwada is very big, the border of the village, as you saw, is from Holi maidan till Khambadev temple. The fishing used to happen till Khambadev, people used to go in boats till there and the border of koliwada was there. It is not just in koliwada every village like Uran, Utan all have a border and we are very proud of our border. If you say in marathi it's called vesh and in English it's called border.
But after some time, this place was encroached and people from everywhere came to settle here. That is why khambadev was left that side and this became the border of the village. In the government list it is registered, and we had done a government survey which started from here, this is the border now and that is why we are proud of our village border.
R: Every village has its proof with the panchayat please tell us something about koliwada panchayat and its functions.
V: The patil runs the panchayat with other members. They take the decision regarding the village together. And the village leader has the authority to give justice to people. For instance there are two parties, the one complaining and the accused we get the complaint in written from both the parties. The notice is send to the opposite party to report to the panchayat for hearing. We do not force anyone they give the time suitable to them and then everyone meets. We listen to both the parties, and we are not partial towards anyone, be it relatives or friends. Even now everyone has full faith in the decision taken by the panchayat. The case file is signed by the patil and the other members of the panchayat. This is the function of panchayat.
Even in the matters of marriages in the village, village leader asks the family of the boy and girl family about the deal the have fixed on. If both families are fine with it, he gives his permission.
R: So you still follow panchayat's decision?
V: Yes we still follow it.
R: Before going to the police?
V: Police themselves tells us to first go to panchayat. Police also gets so many cases and they are so few in numbers. Anyways Dharavi has many problems. They are happy with us that such less cases of koliwada go to them, and that we solve our cases on our own and they also respect our panchayat's decision.
The panchayat of the koliwada is self sufficient, the grievances of the people from the community is solved among themselves. Vinayak with lot of pride says the police department of dharavi is extremely pleased with their ability to solve cases on their own. This is one of the efforts of the kolis to maintain themselves as an autonomous community.
Many kolis converted to Christianity in 16th century with the arrival of Portuguese and then around 1600 when the Britishers came to India. Kolis are one of the first communities to have been converted, though even after taking up Christianity, these people have kept their old rituals intact. Apart from attending church prayer, they also take part in all the community festivals and events and their lifestyle is also very similar to other kolis.
There are many popular myths behind the conversion and also stories about the converted people being ostracized by the Hindus but it does not seem to be the same for the kolis.
R: Various cultures get together in the village. The arrival of Jesus in the village. Christianity in koli and vice versa, what is the connection between koli and Jesus. You are named Ignatious, but you work in temple. All this culture mix is interesting, tell us something about that.
V: Both the religion live in harmony, there are no differences between kolis and Christian. They participate in our festivals, we do in theirs. Like celebration Jesus' birthday, it's called natal in marathi, we participate in that, same for misage. You will not find a place like Dharavi koliwada anywhere, where Hindus and Christians live in harmony. There are no clashes or problems.
Our tradition is such that we live peacefully, in Diwali we go to them and they give us karanji (Indian sweet) and other sweets. We go to others houses to wish then, ours is a collective community.
R: How were you named Ignatious?
V: No Ignatious is a different person, I am Vinayak Koli and I am the president of Dharavi koliwada. Ignatious is the old man. There are many converted people here in koliwada, there are about 30-40 people you will find who were Hindus earlier and they got converted to Christianity. Lot of people got inspired from Christianity and converted, but they are originally Hindu. These people come for hindu festivals out of their own will even Ignatious you are talking about comes to temples. Our village patil is Christian but he always comes for hindu festivals, and also for Christian festivals.
Right now the two old women we met, the first one is Christian and my mother was brought up by her. The house where we met the second one that house is my mother's grandfather's house and that woman was hindu. That means we are originally Hindu, but long ago we converted to Christianity. The Hindus were happy with their religion so they remained hindu.
R: So are people still converting in Dharavi?
V: Now in cases of love marriage, if the boy is a Christian and the girl is Hindu. Then the girl has to convert to Christianity. Even if a man feels he should convert to Christianity, he has to follow church's method.