The area looks like a vast barren field with one dying tree in sight. Running through it are grey metal rail lines which glisten like snakes under a blazing sun. The air is humid and a cool drink of water seems like a distant dream.
Panting for breath, a brown dog stretches on them, the train probably won't be here anytime soon.
To the right of the rail lines, an old woman and a young boy lie on a torn, straw mat.
To the left, heat waves create a mirage of broken walls, brick pieces and plastic drums, the blue kind used to store water. When looked closer, it's not a mirage; these are what are left of the Harijan houses of Gopibagh Railway Colony.
These were demolished on January 22, 2019 as part of the Padma bridge rail link project. Since then 108 Harijan families have been living under the open sky. The signboard planted near the rail line says the projects are expected to be completed by 2022.
At the colony's entrance, in a white caged space, is a temple of the Goddess Durga. The cement courtyard is clean with a few mango trees scattered around it. The community leader Gajan Lal, a man in his early 50s, stands under of the trees.
"Some days the heat becomes unbearable but yet we are forced to live, eat, bathe and do everything under an open sky!," he says.
His forefathers hailed from Kanpur, India but he proudly shows his National Identity Card which says he is a Bangladeshi. Most of the colony residents also have their fathers and grandfathers coming from Kanpur, Telengana and Andhra Pardesh.
The entire colony was not demolished however, the permanent workers' houses still stand erect but those who are not are living in make-shift houses.
Out of the ten communal bathrooms, only four remain intact. Gajan Lal points out at a nearby gaping hole which is covered with a curtain. "This is actually a bathing space. It's especially difficult for the women to bathe openly." Nearby, on the wet cement floor, some utensils and plastic drums are arranged to hold water.
Some of them begin to gather around Gajan Lal, including his wife. Clad in a printed sari, she dabs her eyes with the free end of it and says, "Please ask the authorities to give us a place to stay."
What used to be their kitchen is now an open space with a plastic sheet as its roof. Gajan Lal points out at a distant tree, "We used to have a school there. It was called Telegu Primary School. We even had a temple. Now, everything's gone."
Uncertain future for the younger residents
Compared to other districts, the Harijan students face less trouble at their educational institutions. They attend regular schools and colleges and the teachers are least bothered about their Harijan identities.
The trouble faced by the students living at Gopibagh colony is different now. Now they are living in make shift houses and can at least attend classes, what will happen in the next few months when they might be completely thrown out?
More confident in her statements than the average 17 year old, Moni Rani Das voices her anguish over the eviction. "Our houses were destroyed in January, just a month before our SSC examinations. We couldn't even study properly. I don't want to give up but what if we have to live on the streets soon?"
She received an A grade in her SSC but she is uncertain about her college admission. "We don't have a roof over our head, how can I think about college right now?"
Like her, other students like Megha Rani Das and Rajib Chandra Das also give similar statements. Megha is a student of Government Badrunnessa College and she wants to study further but her parents are already looking for a suitable groom.
"My father is sacred thinking about the future, he's thinking of getting me married off so that at least I can live somewhere better."
Rajib is the most educated in the colony, he has completed his BBA from Suhrawardy College. With a Harijan identity, he already faces trouble in applying for jobs. "Suppose we don't get rehabilitated within this year, I am unemployed as it is, we can't even afford staying at a rented house."
Hope still lingers for Gajan Lal and his community
Gajan Lal's broken into half home consists of three rooms. In one of them, the low tin roof has one electric fan hanging from the ceiling. One tiny window looks out onto a tinier courtyard with a tulsi tree.
The Harijans are a tight-knit community, most of them living as big, joint families. Since the demolition, Gajan Lal and his four brothers, a total of 27 members, have been crammed into these three rooms.
"On 30th April 2019 I attended a meeting where many of the Prime Minister's representatives were present, including Gowher Rizvi Sir. I took his hands in mine and pleaded for our homes, he assured me it will be taken care of soon. We are still waiting," sighs Gajan Lal.
He adds by saying "We know that already a multi-storied building has been built in Dayaganj for the Harijans who were evicted from there. We are praying that ours becomes ready as soon as possible."
The worst fear that lies in the minds of the Harijan members of Gopibagh colony is being 'homeless'. They might be able to find rented places but only for few months, after that the landlords too might evict them. For Gajan, Megha, Rajib, Janaki and Mohan, the only wish is for a roof over their heads.