By Serge Bouvet:
Turkman Gate is located in the old city around which New Delhi has emerged. It would be wrong to brand the area around Turkman Gate as a ghetto, as it houses various wholesale markets and different communities as well. Besides, ghettos are usually formed by new migrants to the city to hold on to their culture in an alien environment. Whereas, those residing in this area have been here since centuries. They are the real residents of Delhi and still follow the age-old Delhi culture.
Islam is a minority religion in India, with only 172 million people identifying as adherents. The community I explored around the Turkman Gate were followers of the religion. Since then, I decided to make some portraits of Muslims in India because, in France, if you read a book about Indians, it only shows faces of sadhus and sannyasins…
Turkman Gate, located on the southern edge of Shahajahanabad, is named after the Sufi Saint Hazrat Shah Turkman Bayabani. The Old city’s infrastructure is crumbling under the pressures of a growing population, which has grown manifold since the time of its inception.
The basic requirements of a growing city, like parking spaces/parks, etc. do not exist. If a four wheeler enters the neighborhood, it results in chaos and traffic jams. Roads are narrow, as most of the shops and houses have encroached chunks of the main road leading to congestion. There is hardly any greenery as every inch of open space is inhabited. It resembles a concrete jungle.
I visit India twice a year since 2012. I had the desire to do a report about Hijras. In 2013, I searched the cemetery of Hijras in Turkman Gate. I was surprised to learn that this cemetery was guarded by Sunni Muslims since the sixteenth century. I was surprised! Muslims who watch over transsexuals … Unbelievable!
In my opinion, this Muslim district is very quiet and cool. The people here are very polite. I met Muhammed Bhatt, a lawyer, there. He feels that Turkaman Gate is a very safe area for women, which is one major reason why he prefers to stay here. Her two daughters can move out even late at night without feeling unsafe or uncomfortable as the roads are never deserted. This is something rare for the rest of Delhi.
Muhammed Bhatt further adds that Turkman Gate is very well connected, being close to both ITO and Connaught Place. From a security point of view, he says, Muslims feel safe staying together, as it also provides a sense of ‘apna’ (own) culture. Close to Turkman Gate is the neighbouring Jama Masjid ghetto. Here people are not very rich but look out for each other.
You can check out more portraits of Muslims from Turkman Gate: