JANTAR MANTAR TO BURARI

Punjab in Burari — Where poverty, apathy, cultural activity & time pass meet

S Pal

S Pal

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Poor Burari. It never knew it will have to stand in for Jantar Mantar. After all, the johnny-come-lately observatory that came up only yesterday, 1724 to be precise, has attained a cult status only because it is located a few hundred yards from India’s Parliament, thus becoming an iconic destination of protestors in the country, while Burari has remained a sleepy place for centuries.

Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

With the Centre “allowing” the farmers to proceed towards Burari and not Jantar Mantar, as the farmers want to, many in Punjab are interested to know what kind of a place Burari is.

Allow us to explain Burari very briefly. Delhi’ites know Burari as one of the unhappiest places in Delhi. Its Nirankari Ground is a melting pot for the many colonies of Burari.

Joggers find it attractive in the morning before the kids take it over for their cricket matches. One corner sees kite flying as an all-season time pass activity, and every March, the ground plays host to a national kite flying competition.

burariLean hours see learner drivers in their cars with a huge L announcing that you could be run over unless you have the art of dodging in time. If you have learnt your driving here, you should be very good — after all, the grounds also see horse-pulled carts jostling their way through herds of buffaloes and stray cattle. You can see the lovers of Dionysus in the evening, enjoying their Bacchanalia sips.

There was a time in history when Burari was called Murari – so named because folklore had it that Lord Krishna used to graze his cattle here. It is the same place where the mighty Arjuna prayed before Lord Shiva before setting afire Indraprashtha Van.

burariThat was history. The Burari of today, falling in Burari Assembly constituency or North East Delhi Lok Sabha constituency, is a dirty township. It is filthy, cattle roam free, street dogs rule the roost, flies are all over, and life is lived in ghettos and unauthorised colonies.

In monsoon, you can have a glimpse of hell here.

You can see the highrise flats and neon lights of Pitampura or Rohini from a tall building in Burari, but no government, including that of Arvind Kejriwal, whose office is about 25 kilometres from Burari, has ever bothered much about improving civic life here.

There are residential areas where a four wheeler cannot reach. Makeshift hutments are common, and roads are often potholed or simply missing. Schools used to shut down after a single spell of rain, and now that coronavirus is here, Burari has seen its share of deaths, but without making much news.

A place that hardly matters to government, and where few have the purchasing capacity to splash on white goods advertised in the media, is a spot on the map that the media cares even less about.

burariBurari has remained for decades a place where sewerage or sanitation or garbage collection are all rumours, and promises of development a ritual in speaking lies. The game is easier for the government since most of the colonies are unauthorised, and any minister or MLA can site the legality as a reason.

Burari’s permanent residents, including dengue, malaria and chikungunya, always had epidemic proportions, but now have a new visiting pandemic also as a guest, hopefully, unless it gets an Adhaar Card and becomes a permanent resident, a threat that looms very ominously.

Daily wagers, contract labourers, seamstresses, greengrocers, flea market salesmen, all share the same contaminated air. That was before coronavirus. Now, they share sickness, death and living hell.

But the 23-hectare Burari grounds come alive with religious activity when a Nirankari Samagam takes place here. The sect takes it on lease for a few days every winter, but most locals believe the land belongs to the local Sant Nirankari Mission. Jahangirpuri and Model Town stand cheek by jowl to the ground.

Ordinarily, this time of the year usually witnesses National Cadet Corps (NCC) cadets undergoing training in this ground but this chilly November, Burari grounds are seeing new strange faces: these are farmers from Punjab, Haryana and some other places who had never heard of Burari till yesterday, who did not want to come here today but who Burari should go all out to welcome.

After all, they have fought every inch of the way to get here, overcoming lathi charges and barricades, crossing trenches dug by governments, braving teargas shells paid for by the tax payers, and having been assaulted by water cannons that must be the Naya Bharat’s Modi-fied way to wash off the coronavirus lest it comes to the capital of India.

farmersAfter all, they have fought their way every inch of the route, overcoming lathi charges and barricades, trenches dug by governments, teargas shells paid for by the tax payers, and water cannons that must be the Modi-fied way of washing off the coronavirus lest it comes to the capital of India.

So far, Burari has remained for decades a canvassing machine’s dream place. You will see small handbills stuck on electricity polls all around in Burari announcing: “Har ghar bhagwa chhayega, Ram Rajya hi aayega!

burariWho knows? After a brush with Arjuna and Krishna, what’s the harm in giving another Lord a chance? Who do you think we are referring to? Of course, AnnaDatta! Jai Kisan!

This is Burari’s rare chance to see people with real skills. After all, Jantar Mantar has the Ram Yantra, the Samrat Yantra, the Jai Prakash Yantra and the Misra Yantra, but Burari had none.

Now, it might suddenly have thousands of farmers who have built many Yantras on the way to beat the mighty Khattar-Tomar-Amit Shah-Modi machine, filling up trenches, clearing roads, braving poisonous gas and dirty cold water. It might get some attention, the kind it has needed for decades.

Also Read: Is the govt in a secret pact with farmer leaders?

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S Pal

S Pal

S Pal is an idle pen-pusher currently in a flirtatious relationship with the world of journalism but has an abiding and deep interest in a subject as serious as trivia.

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