By Mohd Naushad Khan
Shaheen Bagh, a Muslim concentrated pocket in South Delhi, has marked its place and position nationally and internationally in the aftermath of iconic protest, which not only redefined the perception of Muslim women in the Indian society but also became the face of women’s resistance across India.
But the fact is despite the place which led the historic movement is facing many challenging issues which require immediate attention of civic bodies, local administration and the people at large in order to make it a healthy and peaceful place for all of us to live in.
Shafaque Alam, a journalist and resident of Abul Fazal Enclave, bordering Shaheen Bagh, said, “Shaheen Bagh is a densely populated area but it has been facing severe problems of solid waste management. The municipal workers bring trucks loaded with garbage from neighbouring areas and empty them near Thokar Number 8. The entire stretch stinks and the garbage sometimes spreads on the road and creates inconvenience to commuters. A number of stray animals also roam near the garbage and sometimes attack passersby and commuters. The government and elected representatives must fix this issue at the earliest,” he said.
He added that traffic is also a serious issue for local people. “During peak morning and evening hours, there is severe traffic jam near Kalindi Kunj area. A number of e-rickshaws have mushroomed and they are mostly unregulated. Some vehicles also violate traffic rules and drive on the wrong side which chokes the traffic. There is no traffic enforcement in the area, despite the traffic police check post is at the spot,” he said.
Sajid Nomani, working for a multinational company, said, “Shaheen Bagh is an awesome place with internal exposure. We made the tables turn all over India. We have a great community which is always ready to help. We have Islamic greetings and abundance of masjids. However, there are multiple issues with Shaheen Bagh. The most important is pollution and garbage. It is not that we don’t have such issues elsewhere. However, residents of Shaheen Bagh are least bothered. The USP is proximity to highway and metro near an area of Muslim community.”
“This has given rise to highly inflated property and rental prices. Regarding health and parking issues, now people are compelled to leave the area and settle elsewhere. We are also soaring skies in case of crimes. Usually, we find self-centred individuals with less care to community as a whole. But yes, in case of dire need, we have a lot of people coming out of their homes to help. If we just work on cleanliness and proper garbage disposal, we can make this place worth living,” said Nomani.
Another resident of Shaheen Bagh, Sarfaraz Nasir, a research scholar and visiting faculty at Jamia Millia Islamia, said, “According to a well-known Hadith, “Cleanliness is half of faith” (Safai Adha Imaan Hai). Thus, cleanliness is often emphasised in daily life among Muslims, being considered an important aspect of faith. However, there is a distinction between expressing and implementing the ideas. The issue plaguing Shaheen Bagh is the presence of littered streets and residential blocks filled with open waste. This is causing inconvenience to the residents due to the unpleasant and foul odours.”
He added, “This issue stems from a human-created problem, where a significant portion of the population lacks a proper understanding of civic sense and responsibility and shows a disregard for the importance of public spaces. Unfortunately, the neighbourhood lacks essential amenities such as educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and recreational spaces like public parks and community halls, which are necessary to support the everyday needs of the residents. Besides, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) is another party that has failed to fulfil even the most basic responsibilities.”
On the way forward, Nasir said, “In order to tackle these urgent issues surrounding waste management and the preservation of green spaces, it is imperative for the community and its leaders to collaborate with concerned citizens and social workers to raise awareness among the population. Together, they can work towards raising awareness and educating the public. Religious leaders, especially the Imams of mosques, can have a significant impact on addressing the issue of open waste by emphasising the importance of purity and cleanliness from a religious perspective as the holy Quaran states, “Truly, Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean” (The Qur’ān, 2:222).