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Monday, August 25, 2008

No house for Muslims: Controversy over Shabana Azmi's statement

The outrage over Shabana Azami's comments, especially the extreme reaction of filmmaker Ashoke Pandit, composer Aadesh Shrivastava and director Shashi Ranjan is quite misplaced.

Firstly, it is a problem which we must understand. Today, it has become immensely difficult for a Muslim to get a house on rent in urban areas of this country.

The problem is more in North, Western and Central India, while it is comparative less in the four Southern states [not entirely absent though].

Just the other day a friend told me about the problems he faced in getting a house in Jaipur. That's how the conversation progressed:

Landlord: Give three months advance rent and take the keys
--Sure. No problem.

What's your name Sir

Ajay bhai, what's your caste? [he felt that the name as Ajay]
--I am Muslim

Muslim! how come your name is Ajay
--My name is AZHAR...AZHAR...

...Sorry bhai sahab, we can't give you the house

I have faced the situation so many times. It's terrible, you feel really bad. Every time you go house hunting it's the same. It's got nothing to do with vegetarianism or non-vegetarianism. Of course, it's a good shield to say, 'We don't give house to non-veg eaters than directly say, We won't let you in because you are a Muslim'.

The trio--Aadesh Shrivastava, Ashoke Pandit and Shashi Ranjan, have no idea about the situation. People are even objecting if somebody in a society (housing colony) gives a flat to a Muslim tenant. The landlord is asked by others, to desist from giving his flat to a Muslim. Mr Pandit, this culture (as you said) can't get respect but only contempt. It is pure bigotry and hypocrisy.

Like, a guy wants Rs 25,000 (rent) for his big house and a Muslim comes, he may allow him. However, if the rent is Rs 2,000-5,000 and a Muslim knocks at his door, asking whether the house is vacant, the landlord would, in most cases, wait for some one else.

If a few Muslims manage to get house, then it is because they have fat pockets and can pay more than the market rate. Ask any Muslim and you will hear a similar tale. One can't imagine how bad it feels unless he has experienced this 'rejection' himself.

Sadly, this is leading to a serious situation. Urban ghettoisation across India. Two cities in each City. A Hindu City and a Muslim. It will be a horrific situation in future. Unfortunately nobody sees it serious. Our glorious composite culture is facing extinction due to this divide in each Indian city.

And no politician sees it as an issue. Shabana has spoken and is being ridiculed. This is the same hypocrisy for which we are known. There is a problem, let's accept it. I wish the governments could embark upon 'forced segregation' like in Western countries including America where the racial divide had led to a similar situation.

There should be housing schemes and constructions in new areas in such a way that all religious communities should have a fair mix. Housing societies on religious, linguistic and community lines must not be encouraged. The beauty of a society is in its diversity and the harmony with which different communities live together and understand each other's culture.

I know, Shabana, can buy a house, an entire apartment, but how many have her financial status. But, if she has spelled it out, it doesn't need to be condemned. It's our age-old practice to not confront our own biases. Yes, we have an issue, this society has a problem. Accept it, disccuss it and have a discussion. Why can't we sort it out?

Now read other posts on this issue on this blog:

1. Emraan Hashmi denied flat in Mumbai
2. Builders' boycott pushing Indian Muslims into ghettos
3. What about ghettoes of Gujaratis, Christians, Jains, other castes?
4. At last, a bank for Muslims in Juhapura [Ahmedabad]


vikram said...

not sure which glorious composite culture you are talking about. Every villege and town of india has ghettos. Different catses and religions have always lived in separate areas even in small villeges.

Hyderabadi said...

انڈسکرائب بھائی ! ہمارے لئے تو یہ حیرت کی خبر ہے۔ ویسے آپ نے پہلے ہی جنوبی ہند کے چار شہروں کو مستثنیٰ قرار دیا ہے۔ یقیناً اس میں حیدرآباد اور بنگلور شامل ہیں۔ ہمیں علم نہیں تھا کہ جنوبی ہند کو چھوڑ کر پورے ہندوستان میں اس قدر سنگین صورتحال ہے۔
ویسے یہ بھی ایک کڑوی حقیقت ہے کہ کچھ سالوں سے محلے مذہب کی بنیاد پر قائم ہوتے چلے جا رہے ہیں۔ افسوس کہ حیدرآباد بھی اس صورتحال سے مستثنٰی نہیں ہے۔

abhijit said...

Lets eyeball this a little more:
(1)Is this situation new?
I would say NO. People of different faiths, in this country, have (chosen to) remain in homogeneous areas since the beginning. The so called 'ghettos' of Hyderabad and Lucknow are over 500years old. Also, if you go to Jain, marwari majority areas, it is impossible for person of any religion to get a house lest you can prove, and that too only by virtue of your ancestry, that you disavow all non-vegetarian products.
(2)Is this (mentioned above) really so bad?
well.. depends on how you look at it. This is a free country and people have the right to live in a community they choose, after all there are limits to everything including 'religious tolerance' - to avoid stereotyping I won't list any here, but lets just say there are things that (some) people of every religion (Hindu, Muslim, Christian .... ) find in other religions that makes (some of) 'us' a wee bit uncomfortable, and we have a right to avoid it, if we can.
The point where it gets alarming is when all other conditions being equal (dietary, sanitary, habilimentary etc), people start denying, in this case, housing rights (well.. its still privilege in our country) based solely on the religion; Which brings be to the next question.
(3) Has the situation been exacerbated in recent times?
Of course.
(4) And why?
I have highlighted some of the reasons for antipathy directed specifically towards Muslims in India. I feel that the housing situation mentioned in the post is primarily a direct consequence of mistrust and suspicion [1,4 in my post]. What an average Indian (not necessarily Hindu) fears next to death is getting wrapped up in the soul-killing time-warp that is our judicial system and would rather avoid it. While this is baseless generalization, its human psyche.
Educated, upwardly mobile Muslims are generally not viewed with suspicion (yet), but let there be a few 'incidents' in upscale housings and there wont be any 25K housing available either.
Then there is some hate, but that, in my opinion and supported by facts above, are not the primary reason but it is also mutual.
(6) is this something we should worry about? Should this be active fixed?
I dare anyone to say no.
(7) How can we fix this?
3 things come to mind - education, education, education. Any other ideas?

Hyderabadi said...

Agreed with abhijit on some points.
but the last point(7) needs some clarification. Whats this education stands for?
My personal experience: In the "hyderabadi mohella" where I lived from my birth, there was 25% hindus & the rest muslims. from 90's the less % going to be more lesser. Now it's almost 0%.
Atleast 60% of the youngsters (between age 18-40) are in Europe/Australia/NZ/USA/Mid.East nowadays. I mean to say the young muslim generation is fast forwarding towards education & the high-fi materialised life. But still the question remains: as why our "mohella" has the zero percent hindus living in??
I dont know the answer exactly, as I am also living in the gulf for past several years.

Anonymous said...

Non-muslims are to be taxed according to quran, isn't it? I think it is called dhimmi or something.

The muslims don't give land in Ayodhya or Varanasi or Amarnath, why would Hindus?

As you sow, so you reap.

Muslims play both the vitims and the aggressors.

Vibhash Prakash Awasthi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vibhash said...

anyways there is a trend emerging...u dnt get things done your way...blame it to the bias against ur caste/religion...
Azharuddin gets dropped/caught in match fixing scandal and says - he is being crucified because he is from a minority committee.
Mayawati doent get enough support to snatch the PM seatch and says - other parties just cnt let a dalit lady become a PM
few students in IITD get in thru quota, get sacked because they dnt meet the minimum qualifying criteria and complain - they have been victimized as they belong ot reserve category
Shabana Azmi cant buy a house of her choice, could be any reason - and joins the list.

abhijit said...

Wikipedia describes education as: encompassing both the teaching and learning of knowledge, proper conduct, and technical competency. Unfortunately, in our education system, emphasis is placed solely on technical competency and vocational training; sure, we can solve partial differential equations, program in C++, (or Autocad :)) etc... have well paid jobs and can afford iPhones, but when it comes to civic responsibility, rational behavior and many of us have our basics wrong.
This lack of 'education' causes to move from mixed neighborhood, deny jobs and housing, start believing in hate messages and attack orphanages and commit acts of terror.

Hyderabadi said...

Agreed with you. Btw for any Muslim being this is actually his/her first practical lesson. Our beloved prophet(saw) informed us in many of his sayings as well as thru his behaviour. Even he(saw) shows so much so sympathy towards one's neighbor that cannot be explain. He(saw) did'nt differentiate the neighbor as a muslim/non-muslim.
But alas... parents do forget to teach (moral/islamic values) their children & so the children runs towards the materialized life.

the point:
It is not the time to get just the meanings of "words" from the west... we have to renovate the old moral values & practically follows so as to make an example for the next generation.

Mohit said...

If there is a bias, we need to honest and face up to it. The fact that we live in a free market does not mean that landlords can discriminate while choosing their tenants. There are laws against this in our Constitution and in our penal code (similar to the Fair Housing Act in the US)and they need to be enforced. There is no excuse for singling people out - if you suspect that your would be tenant is a criminal - do a police verification.

adal said...

This is not a new development , it has been in force for the last sevral decdes in all parts of India.
Different persons have different reasons for it. Muslims have been respecting their sentiments and slip out without any ill feeling.
Hence,this need not be
What every thinking Indian has to seriously contemplate is the
"mischief" of divisive forces
out to communalize issues as in Jammu and Orissa, for garnering votes in the elections round the corner.
When all parties fight the elections with manifestos and programmes, one depends on creating "emotive issues" and drag the name of the community to suit their purpose.
Luckily many have spotted them and shown them their place.


Vin said...

i wonder if there is any law at all under which PILs can be filed against societies making religion, caste, sexual preference etc as the basis for denying someone a house. it will be bloody tough to prove the case against the guilty but atleast it will go some way in that they'll know that what they're doing is plain illegal. That is also one way to create awareness. Society like ours will take a long time to spread proper education to all, so there's got to be a stick approach to handle this meanwhile.

!!! said...

Well... Anyone can only laugh if you see crorepati's like Shabana, Javed Akhtar playing the victim... victimhood because of her religion.

Why is it that they didnt think that the Indian majority was a biased communal rouge so far - when they were minting their millions living in the hearts of these very masses...

This drama of victimhood is not new... Azharuddin played the minority card when he was charged with match-fixing. No one else in that scam - Ajay Jadeja, Prabhakar or even Kapil thought they had a religion as well... but Azhar promptly thought he was caught because he was Muslim. Wonder why he never felt that he was favored to the post of captaincy because he was a Muslim...

Wouldnt be surprised if some day Salman Khan accusses the masses of India of communal bias because he is charged with murder of pavement dwellers because of his drunken driving. Of course, none of the Khans felt that the Hindu majority of India was communally appeasing them - when the Shahrukh/Aamir/Salmans of bollywood rule the BO.

indscribe said...

Please don't confuse issues. In case of Azhar, it was wrong on his part, and many people condemned that. And that is reason for his fall from grace.

Even at this blog, I have written how he didn't try to gain respect and opens a gym rather than do some welfare activities.

But this is a genuine issue. I think all of us should feel concerned.

kafir said...

Try(if your a Hindu) buying a house in a Muslim locality like Ahemedabad Palace in Bhopal. It's very easy to accuse others but very difficult to see if one is indulging in the same thing.

indscribe said...

K bhai,
That's equally bad, this has also to be condemned it. Minority and Majority both staying in their areas, is unhealthy trend for our society.

ProLogicP said...

ok - here we go again!!! If nobody tells my name, I can easily go a Hindu or a Muslim, because I am an Indian by heart ... I am proud of it. Even my wife says I am half Hindu due to my lifestyle and close friendship with them. I am, once again, saying the same thing. Please don't blame either side. Both are at faults, and both are right!!! Look around us and be united. This is our time to stand together and succeed, not do infighting and complaining and finger pointing. There are so many great Hindus who feel that Muslims should have the rights and respect. I am, for one, very much in favor of supporting Hindus who are absolutely great people and millions of them have open mind and compassion...

Anonymous said...

Hello there

Got to your blog searching for Ghalib and found some interesting and thought provoking articles and comments.

Am a Hindu however my opinions (as would anyone else's) are formed through my experiences.

I have always been secular and have admired sportsmen, actors irrespective of their religion (Aamir Khan, Azhar - before he started betting!, etc.).

Well, in 2003, we rented our flat to a muslim gentleman (senior citizen, ex-bureaucrat etc.) and what happened afterwards caused havoc in our lives. The gentleman refused to vacate when we wanted to shift ourselves. We tried to cajole him into agreeing to our request but he wouldn't budge. We ultimately fought a civil case for 2 years which cost him and us, a lot of anguish, money and peace of mind. We finally won although the gentleman had claimed ownership of the property in his response to our court notice! We learnt later that he used to have a couple of goats tied in the front lawn, to be used as meat, all this in in the middle of a posh colony!


Am not saying I have become anti-muslim because of all this however one does feel a sense of angst at such behavior (and believe me, you have to go through what we went though!) and inevitably one's opinion does get coloured no matter how strong your streak of secularism is...

This is my 2 cents worth...

I do wish someday Hindus & Muslims, Dalits & Upper classes, Biharis & UPites, will all live together happily. I suspect it won't be in my lifetime though and I also feel that the only way this will happen is when we have a semblance of economic equality across the board!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It is true. Difficulty for Muslims to get a house on rent in Delhi and North India is very clear and present. Rightly said how many can afford expensive rents ?

This has been compounded by motha-fuc**ng terrorist who again happen to be muslim. Now even a muslim landlord is afraid to give his flat on rent to a muslim.

Real SAD. The mullahs in mosques should preach for better brotherhood and against terrorists.One day I heard the mulla talking about iraq incidents. Assho*es... what about Indian muslims?