City authorities demolished the homes around the recently rebuilt shack of "Slumdog Millionaire" child star Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail but left his standing Saturday.
A bulldozer and about 30 men leveled about 18 shanties in the section of the Garib Nagar — "city of the poor" — slum where Azhar, 10, and his family live. They left another dozen partially standing.
Azhar's was untouched.
The city tore down the same homes, including Azhar's, 16 days ago. The next week, authorities leveled the nearby lane where "Slumdog" co-star Rubina Ali lived.
By Saturday, most residents in Garib Nagar had finished rebuilding their makeshift shacks, often by taking out high-interest loans from local moneylenders.
Azhar's father, Mohammed Ismail, said their home was spared because authorities knew about his son's role in the Oscar-winning movie.
"Azhar has got an award. They respect that. I appreciate it. When they first demolished our house, they didn't know," Ismail said as he sat in the shack, recently tacked together from sheets of cheap metal, torn tarpaulins and blankets.
The state's top official on Friday granted government apartments to both Azhar and Rubina, paid for with funds from the local chapter of the ruling Congress party. "Slumdog" filmmakers have also promised them homes. The families are now trying to figure out if they'll be able to keep both.
Azhar said he'd like two apartments — one for himself and one for his parents — but also wants all his neighbors to get houses too.
"Before giving me a home, they should give it to my friends," he said.
Eight-year-old Mahejbin Qureshi stood near a pile of broken boards and bent nails, all that remained of her home after a bulldozer shoved it into the fetid river that runs through Garib Nagar.
"They broke my home," she said, tears streaming down her face as she held her baby brother in her arms.
U.D. Mistry, an official with the city's Bombay Municipal Corporation, said the huts were destroyed because they were illegal. He said Azhar's was spared because his family can prove they lived in Garib Nagar before 1995, which gives them some property rights.
Mistry said the city has no plans to provide homes to any other residents.
"There is no policy to relocate them because these huts are illegal," he said.
But neighbors say they too have proof of residence before 1995.
"I have a ration card. My name is on the electoral rolls. I have electricity bills," said a distraught Sayeda Abdulrahman Shaikh, a 30-year-old mother of five. "I showed them, but they destroyed my house anyway."
Like many of the children of Garib Nagar, her son Salman, 12, was an extra in "Slumdog Millionaire."
"We worked with Azhar. If they are getting houses, why not me?" Salman asked, sweating in the hot sun. "We are being ignored."
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