Shahpur Jat, in New Delhi, is the unconventional and less-explored cousin of Hauz Khas village. Famous for boutiques and cafes, it attracts the upper class crowd of the capital.
Once a vast agricultural land, serving the city’s demand for vegetables, has now been converted into unorganized cluster of concrete. Some buildings may be well-designed while others are grey. A fact that is hardly noticed by the people attracted to its lavish boutiques and cafes.
Jai Singh, probably in his 80s, says, “Saari umaar guzar gayi yahan, ab sab badal gaya (I’ve lived here my entire life, but now everything has changed)”. He harks back to the 60s when the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) confiscated land from the farmers at a very cheap rate, especially compared to the current rates.
Originally, the land was given to farmers here by the British. Jai Singh explains how the land after being snatched from them at very low rates was again given to them on lease for farming. This was when former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri came up with the slogan of ‘Jai jawaan, jai kissan‘ (Hail the soldier, hail the farmer).
The next major blow for the farmers came in 1982. During the Asiad Games, the government once again allegedly grabbled their land for Games.
The Games were a success for the nation, but was significant failure for the farmers. They had to bear the loss of their fertile land and thus, shift towards other occupations such as embroidery etc. for their livelihood.
The boutiques here are mostly run by outsiders and the rent they pay is a major source of income for owners and original inhabitants of Shahpur Jat.
At one glance, modernization might seem like the demand of the times, but a closer look at the haphazard infrastructure, the narrow, puzzling lanes, cramped houses, women in veils and around 15 jhuggis (makeshift huts) near the parking area reveals the reality.
Being close to Hauz Khas Village, Shahpur Jat has always attracted the posh city crowd, but reality of the place and plight of natives could only be understood by walking through the narrow, confusing and unorganized streets, which are still waiting for the light of “modernization”.
Photograph courtesy Shahpur Jat Market on Facebook