Following a Delhi High Court order last month which directed North Delhi Municipal Corporation to shut all markets on Netaji Subhash Marg, the famous Daryaganj book market in Delhi has been closed. While there have been talks about relocating the market, currently the iconic stretch no longer displays books on both sides, leaving booksellers and readers in the lurch.
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Often hailed as the paradise for bibliophiles, the book bazaar at Daryaganj has been in operation for several decades and every Sunday, attracted a sizeable number of people. Owing to its expansive collection, it catered to all kinds of demands, ranging from academic to children’s books. Apart from the eclectic collection, customers were also drawn here for the affordable price.
This, however, is not the first time the 50-year-old bazaar has been shut down. Historian Ramchandra Guha, in an impassioned column for Hindustan Times in 2018, shared how back in the day, he had written an article to save the market, which was forwarded to then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. “Rao was both a reader and writer of books, and some officials in the PMO were of a scholarly bent as well,” Guha writes. Other people also joined in to support the initiative. “The prime minister saw merit in the campaign and got the police and the municipal authorities to have the booksellers back on the pavement every Sunday,” he writes.
A stretch of road dedicated to books is not just peculiar to Delhi. College Street in Kolkata and Moore Market in Chennai are similar haunts. Situated within a thick mesh of schools and colleges, College Street in Kolkata has books laden for over a kilometre, and much like much Daryaganj, it is a delight for students and scholars alike. The Moore Market in Chennai, on the other hand, is a haunt for second-hand books and bookstores. But what made Daryaganj stand out was its Sunday affair.
Ironically, the article last year by Guha was written in response to a similar threat. The market had survived. One can only hope for the same this time around.