Tag Archives: Delhi

As Migrants Begin their Long Trudge to Nowhere, A Note on Migration in Delhi: Jamal Kidwai

Guest Post by JAMAL KIDWAI

Most of the people in Delhi, like in rest of India (according to official estimates, 92 per cent of India’s work force comprises of informal labour) earn their living from working in the informal sector. There is extensive academic literature on this subject.  Typically, informal economy is that which does not find mention in official data, is not formally registered and regulated and falls outside the tax regulation.

The concept of informality became current in economic and social thought in the early 1970’s. It has since been re-considered and re-interpreted. The idea that the informal sector presented a liminal space for workers waiting to be absorbed by the formal sector, has been negated. Instead, current trends suggest that a majority of the Indian work force (approx.92%) labour under short-term informal contracts.  Well-known labour historian Jan Bremen has somewhere written that the fact the informal economy is not officially regulated does not imply a complete absence of regulation. There are many unofficial means of regulation. Quite often activities that do not possess registration and legal sanction get denoted as informal or ‘underground’. This practice results in the official erasure of the economic value of the goods and services produced therein. It also serves the purpose of masking the over-exploitation and socially-levered extortion to which the most unprotected and vulnerable members of the working class are subjected.

Continue reading As Migrants Begin their Long Trudge to Nowhere, A Note on Migration in Delhi: Jamal Kidwai

Reaching for the Universe


“Universal” is a tricky word. It has an enormous appeal, an unquestioned romance of taking every one along. Universal human rights, universal access to basic services, housing for all. It is the barometer of inclusion done right. The dark side of the romance is that it’s one of the hardest things to actually achieve. Often the “universal” is a vanishing horizon and, like all horizons, the mirage is what makes you lose sight of the very real trade-off’s and constraints in your way.

This week the Delhi Jal Board announced a new horizon towards the idea of universal access to a basic urban service and human need: water. The “Jal Adhikar Connection” (a Right to Water Connection) promises to let households within slums in Delhi apply for legal, metered water connections “irrespective of the status of their residence.” This move – following the Government of Delhi’s already given pledge to extend water and sanitation services to unauthorized colonies – implies that legal, public and metered water could (like electricity) actually cover the city as it exists rather than as it is imagined in plans and laws.

Continue reading Reaching for the Universe

[Kafila Audio] Dilli Tha Jiska Naam: Recollections of a Forgotten City

Last week I caught up with Shubhum Mishra, a cartographer/geographer/urban planner, in Sundar Nursery – a Mughal garden turned  colonial green house spanning 70 acres in the heart of Delhi – that shall should be open to the public sometime next year.

Shubhum has just transliterated Intizar Husain’s famous book – Dilli Tha Jiska Naam – from the original Urdu/farsi script to devnagari, in the hope of making this incredible resource more accessible to north Indian readers. In this conversation he reads excerpts from the book and I asked him why modern Indian cities are so spectacularly ugly.

Listen in for a fascinating description of Chandini Chowk and “Old Delhi” – back from when “Old Delhi” was the only Delhi around.  Shubhum will respond to comments on the site. His book is now available in most book stores around the city and you can buy it here


[Audio] Delhi: A Hydrological History

In summer, Delhi’s fancy turns grimly to thoughts of thirst.

How can a mega-city provide a safe and sustainable supply of water to its 24 million residents? How has it done so in the past? What do we lose when we turn our backs on a river,  turn our streams into sewers and lay concrete over our ponds?

In this conversation, Sohail Hashmi summons the Delhi of history, and  the Delhi of his childhood through recollections of the Yamuna, ponds, streams, and the Urdu Bazaar where everyone had a favourite well from where they drew their daily sustenance.

Like what you hear? Leave us comments on how we can expand our audio section


31st August in Manipur – The day and after: Roluahpuia

Guest Post by ROLUAHPUIA

In Manipur, most days are not merely a day as they appear in the calendar. Many days in fact are commemorated and remembered and therefore political. For instance, the 18th of June is commemorated as the Great June Uprising by the Meitei mostly led by the United Committee Manipur (UCM) as a mark of remembrance to the loss of 18 lives as a result of the protest over the extension of ceasefire beyond territorial limits between the Government of India (GoI) and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim- Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM). On the contrary, 27th August is commemorated by the Mao Naga as ‘Martyrs Day’ to commemorate the loss of seven lives in 27th August of 1948 for the cause of Naga integration movement. For the last, 13th September of every year is commemorated by the Kuki as Kuki Black Day against the mass killing of Kuki by the Naga militants. What this three different commemoration displays is the noticeable cleavages and ethnic divides among the three ethnic groups of the state. Continue reading 31st August in Manipur – The day and after: Roluahpuia

Peace, bread and politics of AAP: Satya Sagar

Guest post by SATYA SAGAR

Among the epithets, most frequently hurled at Arvind Kejriwal by the BJP, in the run up to the Delhi assembly elections, were ‘anarchist’, closely followed by ‘urban naxal’. What is it about AAP that threatens the Sangh Parivar to a point of exhibiting such great hysteria and anxiety?

AAP, despite some novelties, is after all a very mainstream political formation, operating completely within the ambit of the Indian Constitution and no pretensions of turning the system upside down?Is there something deeper happening here?

One possibility is of course that, in its name-calling, the BJP presumed the average Delhi voter would run scared, straight into the waiting arms of Papa Modi[1]. In that case then, it was obviously a complete misreading of the public mood of anger and defiance against established national parties. Continue reading Peace, bread and politics of AAP: Satya Sagar

On The Real Tragedy of Secular Modernity: Anand Vivek Taneja

This is a guest post by ANAND VIVEK TANEJA


In the discussion around Aarti Sethi’s essay on Remembering Maqsood Pardesi some very important questions arose. As these questions are directly relevant to my work, but also to the larger concerns of the Kafila community, I decided to dwell on them at some length. As these reflections were written in response to the comments of one particular person, I address him directly in what follows below.

Dear Imtiaz,

In your comments on Aarti’s essay, you say the following things about my work:

The tragedy of secular moderns of India is their fascination with Islam… And it appears secular modern Hindus are too busy analyzing jinns of Delhi, which is really sad!

… what do I do with the knowledge of emerging liberal ideologues working for the empire writing enchanting texts about chattan baba or the jinns?


I think that your opening statement is profound. But to understand its true depth, we need to revisit the terms “secular”, and “modern”, as well as our understandings of “Hinduism” and “Islam.” As an entry point into these questions, I will address your (rhetorical) question about what one should, and can do with “enchanting” texts about jinns. Continue reading On The Real Tragedy of Secular Modernity: Anand Vivek Taneja

Racist villagers versus hapless Africans and other simplistic binaries

The residents of Khirki are angry. They say they have been misrepresented, their grievances are not being given a patient hearing because the rest of us are doing politics over them. Nobody even wants to hear that they could have a case, that the story could be about more than just skin colour. Kafila and Times Now alike will tell you they are a bad, racist, evil lynch mob who deserve to be disenfranchised.

Even if that is what they are, will the summary dismissal of what they are saying be of help in resolving the situation? Forget the debates about the Aam Aadmi Party. As their elected representative, Somnath Bharti with all his vigilante zeal was doing what representative democracy makes representatives do. The people were making their voice heard through their elected representative. But we don’t want to hear their voice. If we did, we’d realise what the area needs is dialogue and understanding. All the problems with Africans and others in a 14th century ‘urban village’ next to 21st century shopping malls need a conversation that won’t come if we don’t want to appreciate the complexity of a social situation. By refusing to do so, we are being as unhelpful as the vigilantism of Somnath Bharti.

But at least we are thinking about Khirki. As for Sagarpur, where on earth is that?

These last few days, you have been fed one-sided angst by a media eager to help Narendra Modi overcome the pro-AAP mood, by pre-ideological leftists eager to bring down the AAP house so that Narendra Modi can come to power and they can do proper full-time chest-beating over fascism, by big industry already unhappy to see the AAP government move against Walmart. Is there a bigger picture?

Notes of Dissent on the AAP Dharna

I have no issues with anyone using dharnas as a political strategy, whether or not they are the Chief Minister. The “inconvenience” and “dignity of office” arguments being made by some also hold little truck with me. I write here then to mark my dissent on three specific fronts against the recently concluded AAP dharna from a different vantage point. As with all thoughts on things emergent, they are offered in the making with all their attendant uncertainties.

Continue reading Notes of Dissent on the AAP Dharna

Arvind Kejriwal, master-blaster

Arvind Kejriwal is the new Sachin Tendulkar. You throw him the most difficult googly and he sweeps it to add runs for his century. In 2011, he started a national anti-corruption movement with the specific aim of setting up an anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal. The movement’s public face and leader was Anna Hazare, a respected social leader, who like Gandhi, believes in fasting for politics. The critics said Anna is just a puppet and it’s Kejriwal’s movement, and that such sophistry showed Kejriwal (who takes oath as chief minister of Delhi tomorrow) had sinister motives.

Kejriwal’s critics said that fasting unto death was a blackmail strategy not suited to a democracy. Kejriwal can’t have a Lokpal just because he wants it. His popular support is just media hype. If he really wants a Lokpal, why doesn’t he form a political party and contest elections?

Kejriwal’s critics said he was supported by the RSS and the BJP, that he is a BJP stooge, that the Lokpal movement was a right-wing conspiracy to remove pristine, super-secular, people-loving, chosen-by-god Congress party from power. Continue reading Arvind Kejriwal, master-blaster

Why AAP is the new Congress

There is nothing novel about new parties upsetting the two-party binary. We have seen that happen through the process of Mandalisation in many states. But all those new parties have come up in the name of one or more identities caste, community, region. The BJP is the Brahmin-Bania party of Hindu nationalism. The BSP is the party of the Dalits, the JD(U) of the Kurmis, the BJD of Odisha. Many of these parties don’t have ambitions to rival the Congress or the BJP on the national stage.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is an exception in that its central ideology is good governance. This helps it escape identity politics. At the same time, the AAP embraces identity politics like everyone else does: its symbol, the broom, was from day one targeted at the Valmikis. Be it Muslims or Dalits or Brahmins, the AAP quietly takes note of identity politics and gives lip service, even as the party as a whole does not identify itself with any one community. The only other party which handles identity politics this way is the Congress. Continue reading Why AAP is the new Congress

Jurrat – 10 to 16 December 2013, Delhi

Majma and Swaang are organizing JURRAT – A week long campaign on violence against women, from Dec 10-16.


About Jurrat

On 16th December 2013 one year would have passed since the shameful, horrific and brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi. And yet this whole year, city after city and village after village has screamed ‘Rape’ ‘Gang Rape’ in the months after the much publicized and condemned Delhi-gang rape. Continue reading Jurrat – 10 to 16 December 2013, Delhi

In Delhi’s defence

Reuters photo
Reuters photo

By SHIVAM VIJ: The census counts ’urban agglomerations’, and the Census of India says that Mumbai is India’s largest urban agglomeration. This includes Mumbai’s suburbs. In counting Delhi, the suburbs are not added because They are separated by state boundaries. If you were to add suburbs of the ’National Capital Region’, Delhi’s population would be not 16 million but over 22 million, making it the world’s largest urban agglomeration after Tokyo. This bustling urban centre is made of its people. Today’s Delhi cannot be stereotyped as just the seat of power. There is more to Delhi than the endless roundabouts of Lutyens’ capital.

Delhi’s core – the Partition refugee Punjabi – is not xenophobic like the Marathi ’manoos’ of Mumbai. In fact Delhi today is what Bombay once was, India’s foremost cosmopolitan metropolis. It is the city of choice for people from across India to migrate to with dreams of riches.

A lot has been written about “the Delhi gang-rape”. 16 December 2012 started a conversation that doesn’t seem to end. This conversation has largely been about rape, not about Delhi.
Continue reading In Delhi’s defence

सार्वजनिक जगहों पर सामूहिक कब्ज़े की संस्कृति : किशोर

Guest post by Kishore

दिल्ली के उत्तर-पश्चिम में स्थित रोहिणी का इलाका लाखों मध्यम और निम्न मध्यम वर्ग परिवारों का बसेरा है. कुछ समय पहले यहाँ मेहनतकश मज़दूर वर्ग के नुमाइंदे भी झुग्गी-झोपडियों में रहा करते थे जिन्होने  रोहिणी  नाम के इस उपनगर को बसाया था. पर पिछले कुछ सालों में इन झुग्गियों को उजाड़ कर दिल्ली के बाहरी हिस्सों में पुनर्वासित किया गया है. ठीक गोरख पाण्डेय की कविता “स्वर्ग से  विदाई” की तरह.

रोहिणी एक नियोजित उपनगर है जिसे दिल्ली विकास प्राधिकरण ने बसाया है. एक शहरी बस्ती की जरूरतों के हिसाब से हर एक चीज़ का ध्यान रखा गया है. थोड़ी थोड़ी दूर पर “सार्वजनिक” पार्कों की व्यवस्था की गयी है और हर एक-दो किलोमीटर पर एक बड़े “सार्वजनिक” पार्क की भी व्यवस्था है जिसे डिस्ट्रिक्ट पार्क कहते हैं. Continue reading सार्वजनिक जगहों पर सामूहिक कब्ज़े की संस्कृति : किशोर

1984: Gauri Gill

This pamphlet, titled 1984, has been released by GAURI GILL

GAURI GILL writes: This pamphlet contains photographs of the ongoing impact of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom in New Delhi – taken by me for Tehelka magazine in 2005 (after the release of the Nanavati Commission report) and Outlook magazine in 2009 (to mark the 25th anniversary of the event); in Trilokpuri, Tilak Vihar and Garhi, as well as at protest rallies in the city. The captions that appear below them are as they were inscribed in the media then. Last month, I decided to ask some artist friends, who were living in Delhi at the time, or have since or prior, or see themselves as somehow participants of the city, to write a small comment alongside each photograph. It could be about the image or a more general observation related to the event; it could be abstract, poetic, personal, fictional, factual or nonsensically true in the way that were Toba Tek Singh’s seminal words on the partition. Continue reading 1984: Gauri Gill

Freedom in Three Acts: @Koinon3a

Guest post by @KOINON3A

New Friends Colony Park, 1996.

There’s a funny telepathy between people running or walking in opposite directions along a narrow jogging track. You both move to one side to avoid bumping into the other, only to find that the other person has moved in exactly the same direction you have. We exchanged half smiles at this long before we actually collided. As we approached each other, I smiled more widely as an acknowledgment of having managed to get it right and avoid each other.

His pockmarked face broke into a smile too. And in the moment he passed right by me, he reached out and grabbed my left breast hard and then moved on. Something I couldn’t have planned or thought about happened; I snapped like a brittle twig, swung around and went after him. His back was turned to me and he didn’t expect this. I hit him in the middle of his back with my fist, my keychain around my fingers giving him an additional gouge. He whirled around, surprised, the mouth now a quivering O, and went for my chest again.

Continue reading Freedom in Three Acts: @Koinon3a

Unlearning submission: Neha Dixit

Guest post by NEHA DIXIT

In the last fortnight, we unlearned submission. On December 16, a 23 year old girl, just on the brink of leading a socio-economically independent life was raped in a moving bus at 9.30 at night.

We saw protests, we saw outraged masses. It is the first time in the history of this nation, when people were out on the streets on the issue of gender. For more than two weeks in a row. And it continues. Figures have been thrown at us: every 20 minutes a woman is raped in India, every third victim is a child, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

At one of these protest sites, the car parking contractor informed me that they have slashed the parking charges from 30 bucks to 10 bucks in solidarity with the girl and her family. This may be dismissed as a ‘simplistic’ contribution by those who have been accusing these protests of being ‘middle class’. But we need to hit the core, to understand the wider repercussions of the Parking contractor’s this simple act. Continue reading Unlearning submission: Neha Dixit

The epiphanic moment of the lathi charge

At the Khan Market Metro station

The girl wasn’t aware that the Udyog Bhavan Metro station in central Delhi had been shut down. In the Metro going to Gurgaon, she needed to get down at Udyog Bhavan. Her friend was waiting in a car outside the station. She waited at the door. The train stopped too, but the gates didn’t open. The PA system — the annoying PA system of the Delhi Metro that never stops saying something or the other — – fell silent. The station was deserted. Not a soul in sight.

The girl asked fellow passengers — all of us men around her — which would be the nearest station that would be open. All the options were far off. Ramakrishna Ashram station on one end, for instance, was four kms. away. “Now what?” the girl asked her friend on the phone in a tone that blamed him, in a way only lovers can. “Now what?” she kept repeating. Continue reading The epiphanic moment of the lathi charge

The things you learn at a protest: Aakshi Magazine


She was sitting among a group of young men and women at Jantar Mantar, shouting “Hang those bastards.” When the slogan lost its effectiveness, it turned to “We want Justice,” “Inquilab Zindabad,” and then “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. Borrowed and heard slogans, but they came from a very real place. “I work in Saket but live in Dwarka.” That is a long distance to travel especially at night. She nodded. “I don’t like it when my parents tell me to come home early just because other people are at fault,” she said anger rising in her voice. She didn’t know any of the people in the group she was sitting with. “We just met here. I had come with a friend who I can’t locate at the moment.” Continue reading The things you learn at a protest: Aakshi Magazine

Desires of planning and the planning of Desires: Vignettes of a Rape Culture and Beyond: Rijul Kochhar

Guest post by text by RIJUL KOCHHAR photos by CHANDAN GOMES

Each person, withdrawn into himself, behaves as though he is a stranger to the destiny of all the others. His children and his good friends constitute for him the whole of the human species. As for his transactions with his fellow citizens, he may mix among them, but he sees them not; he touches them, but does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone. And if on these terms there remains in his mind a sense of family, there no longer remains a sense of society.

~Alexis de Toqueville (Epigraph to Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man)

Friends! You drank some darkness

and became visible

~Tomas Tranströmer (“Elegy”)

An hour is what it took for a band of six males to show a woman, a paramedic, ‘her place’ in contemporary Delhi. Often, in our pathological public places, it takes a mere moment. This case is different because it compels us to think through the limits of brutality of the living; it compels us to confront the limits of our capacity to inflict violence. But the night of December 16, 2012 also confronts us with the kind of cities we are building and the kind of places we want to inhabit. It is a different, by no means less important, matter that this woman—from whatever one has gathered these past weeks through the periodic medical bulletins—has battled to compel us to confront all of this and more, for the pain of her body and the brutality of an experience that she had survived for two weeks, serves a specular role—through it, we bear witness to ourselves, or so one hopes.

Passengers in a DTC bus try and catch a glimpse of the candle light vigil organised outside Safdarjung Hospital. Thousands of commuters became witness to today’s meet – some got down from their buses to join the vigil. Some joined their hands when their gaze fell on the bed of candles. An old woman took out her hair clip that was shaped like a flower and threw it towards us.
Passengers in a DTC bus try and catch a glimpse of the candle light vigil organised outside Safdarjung Hospital. Thousands of commuters became witness to today’s meet – some got down from their buses to join the vigil. Some joined their hands when their gaze fell on the bed of candles. An old woman took out her hair clip that was shaped like a flower and threw it towards us.

Continue reading Desires of planning and the planning of Desires: Vignettes of a Rape Culture and Beyond: Rijul Kochhar

In Memory of The Unknown Citizen

We may never know her name. But not every memory needs a name or a pile of stone. Her memorial need not claim space on a city street, or square, or on the river-front. Let the well-known Leader and the Unknown Soldier have their real estate, but for the Unknown Citizen, let us not fire gun salutes, fly flags at half-mast or build portals and pedestals. And let us not for even a moment imagine that instituting police measures against the people the Prime Minister calls ‘foot-loose migrants’ will mean anything remotely resembling justice.

We can think about what the contours of enduring justice can be without being hangmen. Only safe cities, safe towns and safe villages, and freedom for all men and women will mean justice. Justice does not come from the gallows. It springs from a freedom from fear, and the gallows only perpetuate fear. Hangmen will turn the bullies who rape into the cowards who will automatically murder so that there may not be a trace of their rape. It will make fathers who rape their daughters into fathers who rape and murder their daughters. Capital punishment will lead to less, not more convictions for rape and heinous sexual violence. That can never lead us to justice. Continue reading In Memory of The Unknown Citizen