Cities within a City: A Collage of Communal Diaspora in Delhi

Author Address

Niyanta Muku, MUD, B.Arch., World Monuments Fund, [email protected] Debayan Chatterjee, MUD, B.Arch., BDP Design Engineering Pvt. Ltd., [email protected]


Identity, Land of opportunities, Migrants and Refugees, Quality of life, Globalisation, Homogenized planning, ‘Urban’ influx, Socio-spatial inequality, Spaces of difference.


 “Are you your city?” Not the usual question one might ask. But in more ways than one, we are all part of our city, and like a cog in the wheel, each one of us contributes to its identity. The urban environment that makes up cities reflects the complex nature of human interaction as individuals and communities.

Origin of cities can be traced back as a coming together of political, economic and social forces; which transforms it into a land of opportunities. This transformation attracts migrants and refugees to cities, for a better quality of life. With time, migrants and refugees belonging to the same ethnicity tend to conglomerate and form their own communities, in addition to the existing communities of aboriginals. These communities interact with each other and individually become a ‘City within a City’.

With the influence of globalisation post the liberalization of Indian economy in early 90’s, the Indian cities too are being remodelled ‘as world class’ cities to function as nodes of global finance in the global South. To achieve this a homogenized planning vision is being floated at the behest of global capital, ushering in a new mapping of the urban by intense gentrification of the urban space and recasting of the urban form and governance. Due to which, the ‘Urban’ influx in cities after independence, leads to migration from rural areas, migration from forced eviction, migration of refugees to urban areas. And one such case of the city which is witness to migration of people for various reasons is the capital city of India – Delhi.

As a consequence, the overall character represents a gradual fragmentation of territories, increasing socio-spatial inequality and a simultaneous emergence of new/modern activities in specific locales implying an aggravation of ‘spaces of difference'. This paper will establish a holistic understanding of how Delhi grew from a singular identity to a co-existence of multiple identities, of how regulations and policies need to address the complex layers and heterogeneity of Delhi to re-emphasise the phenomenon of ‘Cities within A City’.


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