The struggle for access to and control over a space in which to live has
made housing a central issue for the city of Mumbai. The city's history is
one in which human rights and, in particular, the right to housing have
played an important role. This article examines the Indian Supreme
Court's development of the right to housing as an aspect of the right to
life, placing this unique jurisprudence within the complex reality of life
for Mumbai's inhabitants. The article traces the growth of this expansive
human right through the Indian jurisprudence and then contrasts the
housing rights case law with more recent litigation on the environment,
urban growth, and rural development, in which the housing rights of
marginalized communities have been radically refigured. The analysis
reveals competing visions of how human rights should be interpreted and
whose interests these norms should protect. In fact, as the article exposes,
the contested interpretation of the right to housing is caught up in
competing visions of India's social transformation into a new, "modern"
state and the place of its marginalized citizens within that state. In this
context, the right to housing emerges as a site of struggle through which
the meaning of urban citizenship, participation, and the future of the city
itself are contested. The article closes by offering some conclusions on the
factors underlying the shift in popular and judicial human rights
discourse, showing that competing visions of social transformation have
had concrete impacts on the human rights of India's most marginalized
Hohmann, Jessie M.
"Visions of Social Transformation and the Invocation of Human Rights in Mumbai: The Struggle for the Right to Housing,"
Yale Human Rights and Development Journal:
1, Article 2.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yhrdlj/vol13/iss1/2