Friday, December 9, 2022

Reaching out with dreams

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The Jamia Nagar police station in Delhi is trying to earn the trust of the community by offering a free library, coaching and job training

By Shadab Nazmi

Four years after it earned public ire through the infamous Batla House encounter of 2008, the Jamia Nagar police station started an ambitious program to bridge the huge gap that exists between itself and the Muslim community. It was a step towards opening direct communication lines, and the medium was a free public library founded on February 22, 2012, under the supervision of Ajay Chaudhary, additional police commissioner, South East District;  P Kamraj, joint commissioner of Police; and Safdar Hussain Khan, former chairman, Delhi Minorities Commission.

Two years down the line that library has been able to address the deep misunderstanding within the Muslim community of Jamia Nagar, not only providing them a place to acquire knowledge but also offering them coaching schemes that fetch jobs. The mist of suspicion is slowly lifting and a sunny future is visible.

Take the case of Mehrin Aslam, a 25-year-old mother from Neb Sarai, Delhi. Separated from her husband after two years of marriage, she now lives with her seven-year-old daughter. Every day, she wakes up early, sends her daughter to school and then reaches Jamia Nagar police station, having changed buses en route.

There, she sits down to study. She hopes to get admission to the much sought-after Bachelors program in Education (BEd) of Jamia Millia Islamia this year.
“Pehle mujhe police station se bahut dar lagta tha, ab mai aadha din yahin guzarti hoon aur aadha din dukan par baithti hoon (I used to be scared of police stations earlier. Now I spend half-a-day here, and the rest running my shop),” Mehrin says.
She has pegged her hopes high, and the free coaching classes at the police public library aid her dream of teaching at some renowned government school one day. Mehrin is not alone. Several BEd and Union Public Service Commission aspirants receive free coaching at the library.

The initiative is in collaboration with Shikhar Organization for Social Development, actively working in the sector of education and health for the past three years. Says Chaudhary: “This initiative isn’t just to bridge the prejudice between the police and the people, but also to produce people with a better insight into the educational opportunities.”

The centrally air-conditioned library is located adjacent to the record room. It is open five days a week, between 9am and 5pm. It has over 1,200 books in marketing and management, child development and fiction, besides other non-fiction books and competition series magazines. It also offers daily newspapers like Dainik Bhaskar, The Hindu, The Times of India, Inquilab and National Duniya.

There is no membership fee—one just needs to fill a simple form, submit the copy of an identification card and a residential proof document.

Coaching apart, there is another facet of the library: it provides job-oriented training to those who have passed classes X and XII. This practical approach has helped many of them move into jobs commensurate with their abilities.
Assistant librarian Soniya Singh loves what she does there. “I love my job,” she says. “I come here to read as well—there were just fairy tales books in my Noor Nagar Government School library.”

But suspicions still run deep. Sahil Ahmad, a IVth year student of law, thinks it’s just a show. “Ye sab dikhawa hai. Library toh bas logo ko lubhane ke liye hai ki police kitni acchi hai (This is just a show. The library is just to broadcast to the people how good the police is),” he says.

However, positivity shows up too. Nadeem Akhtar, managing director of Shikhar, talks of the good side: “Since last year, there have been over 4,300 visitors to this library. And as for success, 49 out of 80 participants got selected for BEd program and there are already 118 registrations for Industrial Training Institutes’ (ITIs’) training program this year. You can’t overlook the achievements of this library.”

So what has changed at the police station itself? Sub Inspector Manjit Singh says: “We are trying to present a model, and we are getting mature.” Constable Rishi Sharma has another take: “We could serve as an inspiration for the students—if we work in a disciplined way, they will learn from us.”

Sharma says most of the criminal cases in the region are due to property disputes. Every time there was an arrest, people used toassemble at the station in groups, creating a ruckus. When the library opened, the people stayed out of the station, because they know their children are reading inside.

This possibly follows the lead provided by Pune, where, in 2008, the rural police set up libraries in 31 police stations to inculcate reading habits among its own men. Money from the police welfare fund was used to buy selected books from Rasik Sahitya Private Limited at Appa Balwant Chowk in Pune.

That was just a lead, though, because in Delhi, this police station offers its books for free to all in the area. That is a big difference.

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