by Kingshuk Nag
The government of the day shouts from the rooftops that it wants to build an inclusive society. The Constitution of India guarantees equal rights for all its citizens. Yet, actor Emran Hashmi is unable to buy a property in Mumbai’s Pali Hills because he is a Muslim.
Well, nobody tells him that he is being denied the right to buy the flat because he is a Muslim, but for obvious reasons the housing society denies him a no-objection certificate.
“Do I look like a terrorist?” asks Hashmi and nobody has any answer. He may not be any great-shakes actor but certainly nobody has a right to deny him a house just because of his religion. Some friends tell me do not get alarmed, this is not a new phenomenon in Mumbai. Regularly, non-vegetarians are denied flats in housing societies controlled by vegeterian governing bodies. Why should Emran make an issue out of it? He is not being denied a flat because he is a Muslim but because he is assumed to be a non-vegetarian. This is a specious argument because in all probability the denial has to do more with his faith. I am alarmed not because I have any sympathy for this actor but because of different reasons.
Since the early nineties — and this is one thing which Narendra Modi cannot be blamed for starting — there has been religious segregation in the entire new city of Ahmedabad, which came up on the western bank of the Sabarmati river. Muslims could not buy or rent out houses/flats in these parts except in a particular mixed locality called Paldi.
You could be the richest businessman or a top-grade doctor or architect, but if you were a Muslim you just could not live in these areas. There were only two exceptions to my knowledge. One a brave NGO activist (with a Christian wife) used to live on the 10th floor of an apartment complex. The other was the chief PRO (who was a lady) of a top company whose Jain promoter had defied all norms to allot her a flat in a housing complex in the Hindu neighbourhood.
There was a third exception: there was a Muslim housing society in Navrangpura where many prosperous Muslims used to live. I remember having once asked Ahmedabad’s then police commissioner P C Pande (who as the police chief during the riots of 2002 took much flak but I asked this of him earlier on) what he thought about this arrangement. “It’s unfortunate and ominous. It has the potential to destablise society.” And that’s what happened.
The Muslims finding themselves denied an opportunity to stay in these upcoming areas congregated in a place called Juhapura. This was an exclusive Muslim area. With passage of time no Hindu went to Juhapura and common folk started talking of a “border” (shades of India-Pakistan) that demarcated Juhapura from the rest of western Ahmedabad.
The Hindus having no knowledge about Juhapura or its denizens started having apprehensions about the state of affairs there. “There is a lot of arms and ammunitions in Juhapaura, terrorists are hiding there,” said someone and as the voices became shrill many started believing this. Naturally because they had no clue about Juhapura. While the Muslims were getting demonised as a result of these wrong beliefs, nobody asked why Muslims were being denied residence in these upcoming areas. No media reports, no NGO studies, no study by sociologists, no minority commission, no government inquiry, absloutely nothing on the subject.
The end result is there for everybody to see: Gujarat 2002, which not only brought untold miseries on the Muslims of the state but damaged the image of the state and the country internationally. It brought forth a series of reprisal attacks in other parts of the country like the blasts in Mumbai in 2003. A lot of Muslims started wondering whether India was their country at all and if it was so, why were they treated as second-class citizens. Godhra may have provided the spark to Gujarat 2002 (like the greased bullets did to the Revolt of 1857), but its genesis was much earlier. The segragation that begun in the early 1990s had much to do with it. That’s why I am alarmed about the Emran Hashmi incident. If this becomes the trend, God save Mumbai.
Text Source: : Times of India, Photo Source : www.topnews.in/ Posted:August 17, 2009
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