Saturday, June 23, 2012

Another suspicious fire

It’s not an easy thing figuring out what’s going on in this world when the news is so canned & comes from only a few sources. The report by an AP stringer who gets his/her analysis from officials will be repeated word for word in media outlets around the world. Officials always give the same explanation for the hundreds of slum fires in major cities: a cooking accident, residents pirating power lines, flimsy, flammable building materials, or sometimes even “cause unknown”. On the surface that makes sense. But reporters are supposed to have inquiring minds & when you put the fires within the context of urban gentrification & forcible evictions of thousands of slum residents, then the story doesn’t add up at all. In fact, it smells even worse than the smoke billowing off the charred remains of thousands of homes. So when a fire in New Delhi, India burned down an illegal shanty town yesterday, some reports said, “cause unknown”, other reports said it broke out in an adjoining scrap yard, but most reports said it was caused by piles of plastic & rubber that residents had gathered to sell for recycling. They all report it took 25 fire trucks & 70 fire fighters two hours to douse the fire. Only one Indian media source ( actually nosed around the site & interviewed residents & they have a very different account of events. Residents claim the fire trucks arrived late & failed to douse the flames due to shortage of water. Residents also report they were previously ordered to evacuate the slum. There may have been more cops to disperse the residents than fire fighters. This account accords more with photojournalist albums showing more residents fighting the flames than fire fighters but these are also the same charges made by residents in hundreds of other slum fires around the world. Arson for purposes of gentrification is the most likely explanation for most of these fires which have created massive homelessness. Once again, housing is a human right & must become a central political demand in every country. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/AP)

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