Urban transformations and ‘unclean’ occupations: An ethnography of Delhi’s Muslim butchers

Date and Time

April 26, 2011

10:15 am to 12:00 pm


On October 28, 2009, the Supreme Court of India ordered the final closure of the 95- year old Idgah abattoir in Delhi. This was a critical event in the life and livelihood of the butchers and a range of people involved in the meat industry. Butchering is a marginal and stigmatized occupation undergoing major economic, spatial and technological changes. Focusing on the relocation of the abattoir, this presentation addresses two broad concerns. The first part documents the class and religious dimensions of a seemingly secular environment discourse. With the help of ethnographic data, the second part explains how urban transformations lead to further exclusion of the community resulting in new and more nuanced forms of urban marginality.  Zarin Ahmad is a Research Fellow at the Centre de Sciences Humaines New Delhi. Her present research is on the varied forms of social marginality and exclusion in India, focusing on the Qureshi Muslim butchers in Delhi. She has also worked on the Dhadi-Mirasi musicians in Banaras, and the Iraqui biradri engaged in the leather industry in Kolkata. Her PhD and MPhil in South Asian Studies, JNU, Delhi focused on refugees and Muslim minorities of Sri Lanka in the context of the war.  This is the fifteenth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society, and politics. For further information, please contact: Marie-Hélène Zerah at or Partha Mukhopadhyay at