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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Name change shadow looms over Mohammadpur, locals have other concerns

A 30-year-old who runs a shop selling leather goods in Mohammadpur said the change in name was neither a loss nor a gain for people renting shops in the area.

Written by Abhinaya Harigovind | New Delhi |
Updated: September 3, 2021 8:01:55 am
Farmers living in nearby Munirka village settled on the vacant land near the Teen Burji monument around 325 years ago. (Express)

With a proposal to change the name of their urban village to Madhavpuram, some residents of South Delhi’s Mohammadpur, which lies in the shadow of a Lodi-era monument, are skeptical and others indifferent, even as members of the local residents’ association insist the new name will help break away from a “Mughal” past.

The Mayor of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation had last week given anticipatory approval to change the name of Mohammadpur village to Madhavpuram. The decision will now have to be approved by the Delhi government to make the change official in revenue records, said Bhagat Singh Tokas, BJP councillor representing Munirka, under which Mohammadpur falls. This comes months before the civic body polls, where BJP faces a 15-year anti-incumbency.

“If the name changes, what happens to our official documents? We’ll have to get the name of the area changed on everything starting from school certificates? That could take years. We were not even asked if we wanted the change in name,” said a 40-year-old shop owner in Mohammadpur, who asked not to be identified. The area might have been named after Muhammad bin Tughlaq, he said, like how nearby Humayunpur was named after Humayun.

A study prepared by the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) in 2014, which made urban design proposals for Mohammadpur and adjoining slums, had noted that farmers living in nearby Munirka village settled on the vacant land near the Teen Burji monument around 325 years ago, since they wanted to live close to their farm land. This was considered to be the beginning of the village of Mohammadpur.

The Teen Burji is a domed monument protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and a defining feature of the village, serving as a landmark. The monument itself remains closed. The Teen Burji comprises a tomb and was built in the ‘Afghan’ or Lodi period, according to a list of monuments in Delhi compiled by Maulvi Zafar Hasan, an archaeologist of the ASI, in the first half of the 1900s.

Rana Safvi, city chronicler and writer, mentions the Teen Burji in her book, The Forgotten Cities of Delhi. Just like Munirka and Wazirpur were named after Lodi-era officers Munir Khan and Wazir Khan, Mohammadpur was most likely to have been named after Mohammad Khan, an officer of the Lodi period, who built the monument, she said.

The monument itself has a huge central dome, and two flatter domes, she writes. It houses several unknown graves. The structure was used as a place of shelter and cattle shed till the early 20th Century.

Navneet Kumar, who runs a small grocery store and has been living in a rented space in Mohammadpur for over a decade, has no idea that the name of the area is likely to change.

For Ranjit Singh Chauhan, another shop owner, the change is a good move towards making it more “Hindu”, though he is unsure about its utility.

A 50-year-old resident who recently lost his job with a private company said the move was “pointless”. “The MCD could help with pressing issues like unemployment, but has mostly turned a blind eye,” he said. Besides, there are other local issues that need to be resolved. A smaller monument, possibly a part of the larger Teen Burji structure, lies amidst multi-storey homes on a narrow by-lane in a densely populated area.

“Some stories here say that it was a kitchen part of the larger monument, while others say it was a jail. But the structure is crumbling and has developed cracks. If it collapses, there are homes very close to it and could lead to severe damage,” said the resident, who also asked not to be identified. The narrow, congested lanes of the area with vehicles parked along the sides are often an inconvenience, he added.

Tokas, the BJP councillor who also lives in Mohammadpur, said residents were keen on being freed from “the names imposed by the Mughals who ruled us”. Mohammadpur has around 20,000 residents in a 1-km radius, he said.

“The village should have a name that we keep, not one that was used by foreign invaders,” said Ajit Singh, a member of the Mohammadpur Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA).

Brahmprakash Tokas, president of the RWA and a part of the BJP’s OBC Morcha, claimed that the change in name was a long-standing demand of residents in the area, who suggested it to the councillor. Property owners in the village were all Hindus, he claimed. A majority of the residents are, however, tenants living on rented property.

The DUAC study noted that the village is “completely urbanised” and that the rising rentals have made property owners financially strong. The buildings, jostling for space in the by-lanes, are nearly all multi-storey ones.

An SDMC park near the Teen Burji tomb at one end of the village and a second park at another end are the area’s open spaces. Narrow lanes (ranging from 4 ft to 8 ft), overhead electric wires, and improvement of drainage were concerns that the study raised.

A 30-year-old who runs a shop selling leather goods in Mohammadpur said the change in name was neither a loss nor a gain for people renting shops in the area. “But our customers come looking for Mohammadpur, since around 20 shops here sell original leather goods,” he said.

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