The book fair organised by the Delhi Police at Nizamuddin Basti was attended by students,teachers,readers,writers and underprivileged residents of the locality. Urs Mahal got an entirely new look when it was turned into the venue for the book fair from July 17 to 19.
Ajay Chaudhary,Additional Commissioner of Police (South East),says that the police had initially decided to invite the National Book Trust (NBT) to set up mobile book-shops for a few days in the area. However,the idea developed into organising a book fair after we got tremendously positive response from several other foundations,including Ghalib Academy,Agha Khan Foundation,Gandhi Peace Foundation and Bal Bhawan.
Since Jamia did not have much space,deciding the venue for the fair was an issue. However,Chaudharys concerns evaporated when the Nizami family,responsible for taking care of the shrine,readily agreed to offer Urs Mahal for the cause.
The fair offered books in four languages Urdu,Punjabi,Hindi and English on subjects ranging from history and the Partition to science,fiction and folklore. It also had illustrated story books for children aged three to six years.
A special discount of 25 per cent was offered to encourage reading habits among young readers. The event,inaugurated by Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar and MP Sandeep Dikshit,was attended by thousands.
Rashmi Tondon,who teaches English to economically weaker students in the area,had come with 70 students to attend the fair. Pointing at the excited kids,she said,The collection childrens story books,is impressive.
Tondon and her students bought a few books at the fair,while the children were asked to prepare a list of books to be ordered directly from NBT.
Ankit,a student of Sri Ram School in Gurgaon,was seen buying copies of illustrated Kabuliwalla and A Happy Sunday for his younger sisters birthday.
Comments in the visitors book at the counter spoke volumes of the popularity of the initiative. Naushad,who belongs to Patna,wrote that more fairs must be organised in other parts of the country more frequently. Tarannum,a housewife from the Walled City,appreciated the wide collection in Urdu and English.
Novel as it is,this is not the first community-based initiative happening in South-East Delhi. The people behind these ideas,Ajay Chaudhary and his team,have undertaken several such people-based projects. There is distress in minority community that police is not sympathetic. We need to bridge that gap,and such projects help build trust, Chaudhary says.
Though the district police was continuously holding nukkad meetings and street plays,Chaudhary says the turning point came when he decided to convert a section of Jamia Nagar police station into a library for the benefit of local students.
For the past five months,the air-conditioned library has become a hub of student activity. When I would go on rounds in Jamia,I realised many children had difficulty in studying due to lack of space. So I decided to provide them with a room having books and furniture, Chaudhary says. NGO Shikhar helps police in organising the library now. Students from local areas come regularly to study there. Interestingly,our staff too has started bringing their children occasionally to study there, he says.
Earlier,Chaudhary had started B.Ed coaching classes inside the police station for young girls of the area. Orientation sessions were also held for local youth to encourage and prepare them for Delhi Police entrance exam.
As part of community initiatives,Chaudhary had earlier held a series of talk sessions and street plays on drug abuse and womens education in Jaitpur area. I noticed many school students consuming white fluid,getting addicted and involving themselves in petty crimes. Thats why these plays were held, he says.
Sitting in his office,where poems of Faiz Ahmad Faiz hang on the walls,it is hard to believe that Chaudhary was once a small-time clerk in Hindi daily Amar Ujala. When not policing,Chaudhary is busy reading Hindi,Urdu and English literature. I am now working on translating A Farewell to Arms into Hindi, he says.
Chaudhary hails from Etah in Uttar Pradesh and attended the Aligarh Muslim University before joining the marketing team at Amar Ujala. Working his way up diligently,he cracked the civil services examination. He also later went on to do an advanced course in Urdu from AMU.
I have friends in this area who were educated at AMU. I can feel the pulse of this area, Chaudhary says.
Always a firm believer in the power of community initiatives,Chaudhary says,Once community accepts you,law and order can be maintained easily.