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Migration of Chandniwalas

By Shaheryar Hossain, New Delhi

Vrinda Mathur, resident of Darya Ganj

Vrinda Mathur, resident of Darya Ganj

Gone are the days when happy joint families lived in India’s largest wholesale market area – Chandni Chowk. With the passing of days, property disputes, unsecurity, escalating number of theft cases in the area, low standard of living, and lack of maintenance by the government and several other factors forced them to migrate.

Vrinda Mathur, resident of Darya Ganj, shared with Maeeshat her nostalgic childhood days and the reasons why her relatives left their hometown and decided to shift abroad.

“None of cousins with whom I grew up at Chandni Chowk is here. All of them are abroad,” said Mathur.

She explained that her siblings and she herself belonged to the fourth generation. Her mother’s grandfather used to own a haveli (big palace) comprising 200 tenants at Chandi Chowk. With the passing of days, the tenants slowly usurped the property and claimed themselves as owners.  Whenever the main owners asked for rent they received life threat.

“My father owns a garage at 7, Darya Ganj and it was on rent. After the death of my father, we approached the tenant for rent. In reply, he said 70 % of the garage belongs to him and 30 % of belongs to us,” said Mathur whimpering.

Usurping of land by tenants in Chandni Chowk area is now a common phenomenon. Besides this, illegal construction of buildings and theft has crossed its extreme end but our beloved Delhi Police is sleeping.

Reasons why original inhabitants left Chandni Chowk

More than 50 percent of the original colonists of Chandni Chowk are no more staying there. Increase in number of theft and insecurity are the main reasons of their immigration. Their migration started from late 1980s and still continuing. “My friend’s car was stolen from his Chandni Chowk residence. After that incident he shifted from Chandni Chowk,” Mathur said.

Degradation of chandi chowk from mughal era till date

Established during the Mughal era by Emperor Shahjahan’s daughter Jahan Ara, the Chandni Chowk or Moonlit square stretching from Lahori Gate of Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid, was square in shape with pool in the middle. At night, the pool shimmered in the moonlight giving a beautiful scene. The shops were designed in half moon shaped. But today, the scene is totally different. The pool no more exists. The big old houses in Chandni Chowk known as Havelis have now turned into slums.

Disadvantages of living in Chandni Chowk

Fire Safety: Despite being the heritage landmark of India, Chandni Chowk has no proper fire safety equipments. It seems like fire at Chandni Chowk is monthly event. Fire accident took place twice in the last two months this year – July 20, 2014 and August 25, 2014 respectively.

Road and Buildings: The roads and bylanes are so congested that even a crow cannot spread its wings. The narrow lanes and bylanes of Chandni Chowk restrict the cars to enter. There is no space for parking cars for the residents. This apart, whenever there is fire accidents it becomes very difficult for fire tenders to douse the fire. Hardly a few buildings have proper fire safety equipments installed in it.

Safety of women: Women are not in Chandni Chowk. “From school days till date, I was not allowed to roam about in Chandni Chowk alone. Either my Father or my brother used to escort me when whenever I went out from home. My father used to say that our neighbourhod is not safe,” added Mathur.

Like Mathur’s relative, there are a huge number of people who left their home and living abroad. Now the question arises who is responsible for this. Is it the government? Is it the innocence of the landowners who failed to fight for their land?  Is it the escalating number of theft?

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