For most Delhiites, Sarai Rohilla is a name synonymous with a railway station on the narrow gauge line towards Rewari, Jaipur and Ajmer.
On the western part of ridge, this ‘Sarai’ — as the roadside inns were called — was a busy stop on the Delhi-Ajmer road in the old times. Most people also associate ‘Rohilla’ with Rohillas of the Rohilkhand during the Mughal reign. But very few know that it was one Ruhullah Khan — later corrupted to Rohilla — after whom the settlement takes its name.
Interestingly, nothing much is known about Ruhullah Khan except for the fact that he was one of the three sons of Khalil Ullah Khan, a distant relative of Mumtaz Mahal. Khalil Ullah Khan was the Governor of Delhi province during Shahjahan’s reign.
The railway station was set up way back in 1872, even before New Delhi was built. It was the first station from Delhi in those days on the Rajputana-Malwa railway, the route of which cut through Alwar and Jaipur towards Ahmedabad.
Today, the station has Ahata Thakur Dass on southwestern side and a railway colony on its opposite side. A small area, which can still be called ‘Sarai Rohilla’, is actually half a km to its northeast of the station.
“When I came here after marriage, there were merely 60 houses,” said Chandrawati Devi, 62, ruing the changes that had taken place. Today, Sarai Rohilla is a congested colony with rows of shanties turned into low-roofed pucca houses on one side and cubbyhole workshops and factories operating from haphazard buildings on the other.