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Basti Basna Khel Nahin Hai – Dilli hai jiska naam II: Narayani Gupta

This is the second part of a series on Delhi that does not talk only of the narrow lanes of Shahjahanabad, the Mughalia, aka Mughlai delights and the lip-smacking Chaats of Chandni Chowk or the grand ruins of the seven Delhis and the wide open spaces and broad roads, but a series that also looks at the way Delhi has evolved. We wanted to explore the logic of the city and of the forces that have shaped the idea of the city itself. It was this idea that made us approach people who have engaged with the city with love and care for decades, and we requested them to write for Kafila.

This series is titled Dilli Hai Jiska Naam, and the first post in the series by Pradip Krishen can be read here.

Here is the second post, by NARAYANI GUPTA

Basti basna khel nahin: Narayani Gupta

Presented at a seminar on ‘The Right to the City’ at Indraprastha College, Delhi University, on 5 September 2019 

The strident cry of the Right to the City takes us back 50 years, to Henri Lefebvre. 50 years ago, when I was in my 20s,  parts of the world turned upside down – 1967 saw the Naxalbari peasant uprising, in 1968, Lefebvre’s book Le Droit a la ville was followed by the  protest movements of students and workers in Europe. 1969, the rhythms of Woodstock, and in India the excitement of the founding of JNU… Today we get late for appointments because of the pile-up of cars on the roads. 50 years ago it was because of the river of red flags that eddied through the streets from Ramlila Maidan to Sansad Bhavan. Government bred its ‘other’ – protest. Things fall into place when recalled from a later time, but when they happen they merely disturb the surface.

So this is a golden jubilee moment, but also a nostalgia moment, nostalgia for that stubborn sense of hope which we seem to have lost, for the battle-cries now replaced by triumphalist slogans.

The plea for a collective life and an equal access to resources – which is implied in the battle-cry ‘The Right to the City’ – has to be placed against the histories of particular countries. It is certain conjunctures that explain why something happens when it does – even the rallying-cry of the Right to the City.

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