What’s in a name? A lot, according to traders of Delhi’s iconic Khan Market

Shalini Umachandran in Mint:

In the two decades that Sanjiv Mehra has been president of the Khan Market Traders’ Association, he has faced a few struggles to retain the character of the tony market in south Delhi. Now, the association has prepared a letter and plans to meet home minister Amit Shah in case there’s an attempt to change its name.

“I don’t want to take any chances. Khan Market is known worldwide for its real estate value, our history links us to the freedom struggle and we are a symbol of people who worked hard to build something from scratch,” says Mehra, who runs Allied Stores in the market, which is listed among the world’s priciest commercial real estate locations. Mehra’s father, a refugee from Lahore, was allotted shop 10-B in 1950 and ran Elite Departmental Store, which the family turned into a toy and party needs store in 1975.

More than two weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made liberal use of the term “Khan Market gang” in an interview to describe a clique of entrenched power, influence and intellectual tradition, the hashtags and comments haven’t gone away. One Bharatiya Janata Party worker wrote to the home ministry suggesting that the upscale market’s name be changed to “Valmiki Market”.

“I’m sure wisdom will prevail, as it has whenever we’ve met the government,” Mehra says, detailing the association’s struggles with infrastructure management. A few years ago, they went up against Bollywood actor Salman Khan, who registered “Khan Market” as a web portal. “He was reasonable and didn’t pursue it after we spoke to him,” he says.

“Khan Market gang” as a descriptor for those with pedigree and privilege resonated even with those unfamiliar with the market that’s a few metres from the homes of some of Delhi’s most powerful, many of whom have inherited their influence. Within about 3km of the market are the colonial bungalows of ministers, judges and senior bureaucrats; the expansive buildings and lawns of Lutyens’ Delhi; and some of the most expensive private homes as well as cultural centres such as India Habitat Centre and India International Centre, and embassies and luxury hotels of Lodhi Estate, Amrita Shergil Marg, Pandara Road and Sujan Singh Park.


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