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Revisiting Turkman Gate: 'Situation Under Control'

Nazima Parveen

The making of Delhi as New Delhi is a complex story of a 'painful' transition. It is 'painful' not only because it ignores the discursively unsettling, ever evolving, unfixed nature of the city but also because this narrative of rejuvenation fails to offer an appropriate explanation for the urbanity of those spaces which cannot be 'adjusted' in the given imagination of modern/New Delhi. Thus, we are left with a few binaries-old/new, developed/backward, vibrant/stagnant, posh/ghetto and so on. The celebrated story of Delhi's urbanization, in this sense, needs also to be re-read from the vantage point of those encounters when these urban binaries lead to violent conflicts. The Turkman Gate (TG) event of 1976, which become a 'national symbol' of the coercive nature of the Indian state during the time of the Emergency (1975-77) is such a critical event, which signifies the human cost of urban transformations of the city. New Delhi was new in relation to Shahjahanabad, the Mughal city of the 17th century, which eventually became 'old Delhi' with the Delhi Declaration of 1911. In fact, the 'new' of Imperial Delhi emerged as a defining pointer to demarcate the status of various spaces of the city, particularly the Old Delhi. Since then the linkage between the old and new city has been a contested issue in colonial and postcolonial policy discourse. Several urban renewal plans and policies, including the Master Plans (MPD 1, 2), are made either to incorporate the 'old' into 'new'or to redevelop the old into a new old. In fact, the official policy discourse divided Old Delhi into ‘conservation, rehabilitation and urban renewal zones’ simply to adjust this locality in the modern urban imagination of the 1970s. Turkman Gate is one of the seven main entrances of Shahjahanabad. The location of TG is important because it is the shortest way to enter New Delhi from Old Delhi. In the 1970s there were two kinds of localities in this area: an old TG locality adjacent to the city wall (Faseel) and a transit camp, which was created to rehabilitate a few families of Dujana House-another locality of old Delhi which was to be redeveloped. Although, Turkman Gate area was identified as a clearance area according to MPD-1, the Shah Commission Report noted that there were uncertainties about the area to be cleared and its expansion when the demolition drive took place in April 1976 (SCR, 2010). It is ...

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