Jamia Nagar: an observation

By Kashif-ul-Huda, TwoCircles.net

Jamia Nagar is in the news, again for the wrong reasons. Just two years ago, again in the month of Ramadan there was police versus people clashes which resulted in a number of Muslims being arrested. Jamia Nagar, which is deficient in many civic facilities, was rewarded with a fortress like police station.

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Unfairly described as a Muslim ghetto, Jamia Nagar is a growing congested modern area. Among its inhabitants you will find intellectuals, journalists, doctors, engineers, finance professionals and university professors. In its narrow by-lanes you can find latest models of cars and bikes. Certainly, this area has also benefitted from India’s increased economic activity.

But Jamia Nagar residents’ deep connection to religion is also visible in the number of mosques that are in this area and regular worshippers who frequent these places. Some of them are multi-storied with beautiful architecture and some with attached madrasas providing valuable religious education to the young ones. There are mosques catering to different Muslim sects like Deobandi, Barelvi, and Ahl-e-Hadees.

Just outside mosques, there are shops all around and in fact market here offers same quality and prices as other famous markets of Delhi and many residents and visitors who stay in Jamia Nagar area prefer to shop here for convenience.

Even though a majority of shops are small businesses living in the same community that they serve, some business chains have recently opened their outlets in this new and growing market. About half a dozen shops of new grocery chain 6-Ten are doing brisk business in different parts of Jamia Nagar. One 6-Ten shop that I visited was very cramped but full of Muslim women eagerly shopping there for better quality food. The street side fruit vendor who had his stall setup opposite the air conditioned shop was also doing reasonable business. Aggarwal sweets, a sweets shop chain, has also setup an outlet here.

As mentioned earlier, Jamia Nagar’s population overwhelmingly consists of students. This is due to the proximity of Jamia Millia Islamia which gave this area its name. Jamia Millia Islamia was established by a group of Muslim leaders who answered Mahatma Gandhi’s call for non-cooperation movement. Now it offers classes in modern subjects and its student body consists of youth of all faiths.

There are a number of institutes offering computer classes, spoken English and preparation for competitive exams. This is apparent from a look at various posters on the walls all around Jamia Nagar. When I was in Jamia Nagar in last April, most posters were advertisements for schools, institutes, and coaching. A few about one or the other religious function planned in the area and very few about commercial product. I was unable to find any poster that was political in nature. In fact an advertisement of Math tutoring was posted on the signboard of All India United Muslim Morcha.

This is not to say that the residents here are completely apolitical. Jamia Nagar houses cream of Muslims of Delhi. It has national headquarters and offices of many Muslim organizations e.g. All India Muslim Personal Law Board, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, All India Milli Council, All India United Muslim Morcha. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind with its huge campus housing its various organizations including a masjid is in Abul Fazal Enclave. Offices of various Urdu, Hindi, and English publications are also here.

Those who think that Muslims overwhelmingly read only Urdu and therefore have limited understanding of the world around them are in for a rude shock. Data collected by my associate Mumtaz Alam Falahi from newspaper distributor of Jamia Nagar shows that English newspapers rule the market in this part of Delhi. About 69% of daily newspapers read by Jamia Nagar subscribers are English dailies. About 24% of subscribers read Hindi newspapers and Urdu a distant third with just 8%. This data does not take into account newspapers sold through vendors. Almost equal numbers read The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, and the new business daily Mint.

A view of Zakir Nagar rooftop

Most of the residents here are from UP and Bihar and it has successfully made an identity of its own. Residents here are modern in outlook but also rooted in their religion. On its streets one can find Muslims with long beards and women in burqa to men and women sporting the latest fashion available in India. All in all Jamia Nagar offers a glimpse of the future of Muslims of North India which will be modern with firm rooting in religion and all existing peacefully and harmony with different elements of the community.

[Photos by TwoCircles.net]