If you’re heading towards any residential part of south Delhi at any time post 10 PM, then even Google Maps will not be able to help you with the directions. Only someone who is a regular and knows every nook and corner of the area can get you out of the maze that this place becomes from 10PM to 5AM, every day of the week. In this post, I’ll specifically talk about the CR Park area because that’s where I’ve experienced this.
The Delhi police put up barricades at all the entry points at CR Park after 10PM, thus making it difficult to reach desired location as per the usual route. In the daytime, these same barricades keep lying on the road, occupying a significant space. This leads to traffic congestion during peak hours. You will see a similar kind of barricading across the other localities of south Delhi like Defence Colony, Hauz Khas, Mehrauli, Sarojini Nagar, Malviya Nagar and Saket, among others.
The National Capital region (NCR) is already infamous for high crime rate. In such a situation, how right is it to block roads during the night time – further affecting the mobility of the residents.
The residents face a lot of difficulties returning back home late at night. There have been times when auto/cab drivers refuse to take the ride to these areas knowing that they might have to cover a long distance going around the area. If you are lucky enough to get a ride, don’t be surprised if there is a new barricade at an unexpected location.
On top of that, the auto/cab drivers have even asked people to get down in the middle of deserted roads, asking them to walk down the road. So much is the concern that I book my train/flight tickets keeping in mind the roadblocks.
Starting a new problem to address the previous one
Be it Mercedes, BMW, Range Rover, Honda City or Indica – from high end luxury cars to the economical ones, you will definitely spot one parked on the road. Parking is one of the serious issues in Delhi. One of the major reasons for the Delhi police to put up these barricades is to deter the car thieves. Esha Pandey, DCP (South-East), in a statement said “We block entries to the localities at night to curb crime. We also change the timings of the pickets to catch criminals by surprise”.
My previous blog talks about the social structures in Delhi. The barricading takes place in such a way that it blocks entries to all the richer localities, through lanes and by-lanes. These barricades are then locked using metal chains to ensure that they cannot be moved, thus leaving no space for vehicles to pass through. Some of them don’t even leave any space for pedestrians to get through. People manage to make their way by jumping the sides of the barricades.
I wonder what people might be doing in case of emergencies. How do they manage to make their way through these roadblocks? Does the ambulance driver always know which barricade is open to reach the desired destination? Has someone ever faced this issue?
Residents of the locality have filed complaints regarding barricading in the area, calling it to be an inconvenience and harassment to the public. The high court has issued a notice to the Delhi Police commissioner, Delhi government and the centre, and listed the matter for further hearing on 23rd August, 2022.
History of barricades
Barricades are relics of a feudal age when the tyrannical and exploitative feudal lords, always apprehensive of an outburst of anger from a distraught people, kept themselves behind layers of physical barriers in their castles. Barricades evolved from the heavy chains that were strung from side to side of urban streets in parts of Europe in medieval times by prosperous citizens to defend themselves, sometimes from royal troops, sometimes from the local ‘underclass’.(1)
The word first appeared in French in the early 1570s but its association with a makeshift street blockade first occurred during a popular uprising in 1588 against the introduction of troops into Paris that was the turning point of the Wars of Religion. The barricades were made of carts, cobblestones, furniture and, most significantly, barrels (barriques) filled with dirt. The prominent use of weighted barrels gave the construction the name “barricade.” The tactic used by residents in 1588 and after was to let soldiers pass, put up a barricade, trap soldiers between it and other barricades, and open fire. The result in 1588 was that the soldiers retreated and King Henri III left Paris. The large-scale and successful use of the barricade in 1588 fixed many of its features and its political significance for years to come.(2)
As a symbol of power
When you walk around a city/place, we usually don’t see barricades around. And when you spot one, you know that it is installed by police (read authority) to control. We have seen barricades being used to control a mob, block roads, during naaka bandi (blockades) and during protests.
In all these cases, it is a clear line of divide between the commoners and the authority. It symbolizes the power dynamics between the state and the society. It symbolizes the effort to control one party by another.
A structure that needs to be used occasionally and in specific situations is used by the Delhi police on a regular basis. Such kind of policing is causing inconvenience to the residents at night time and worsening traffic conditions during day time. All this with the justification of providing ‘safety and security’ to the residents. But what about the residents living on the other side of barricades ? Do they not need protection ?
Do we really need it ?
We can go on debating about the necessity of barricades in today’s time. One can say that there are no cars on the other side of the barricades, then why protect them. Or we can wait for a data evidence to share about the reduce in crime rates because of barricading. But it is interesting to see, how affluent localities can start a rule just by it’s influence on the authority. The case I have put up here is one.
Some of the historic events from the recent past featuring barricades