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Housing Apartheid for India Muslims

Published: 08/07/2012 12:18:19 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Finding a house in India's capital or the commercial hub of Mumbai has become a sort of impossible mission for the country's Muslim minority as Hindu homeowners and property dealers refuse to sell property to Muslims (more)

CAIRO - Finding a house in India's capital or the commercial hub of Mumbai has become a sort of impossible mission for the country's Muslim minority as Hindu homeowners and property dealers refuse to sell property to Muslims in what is seen as a new ‘apartheid housing system'.

“Agents told us it was not possible to get a flat in Gorai,” radio jockey Yunus Khan, who wanted a house in Gorai in suburban Mumbai, told The Hindu on Sunday, July 8.

“They said Muslims are not preferred. I am married to a Hindu woman. So they suggested purchasing a flat in my wife's name.

“But living anonymously is not possible. Letters and bank statements will be in my name.”

Khan's brother faced a similar same problem when he tried to find a rental accommodation in suburban Kandivali's Charkop area.

Hindu owners refuse to sell or rent houses to Muslims in certain districts in Mumbai, India's commercial hub.

Though priding itself on its cosmopolitan character, Mumbai is widely divided on religion, food habits and language.

A “few locations of south Mumbai like Walkeshwar, Malabar Hill, Peddar Road, Breach Candy; western suburbs like Vile Parle, Bandra, Borivali, Kandivli and eastern suburbs like Ghatkopar, Sion and Mulund are out of bounds for Muslims,”  says Mehul Ved from Ace Realtors, member of South Metrocity Association of Realtors.

“Walkeshwar is totally out for Muslims, except perhaps a few buildings,” said Sanjay Mundra, a south Mumbai realtor in premium housing.

“People are refusing to rent or sell houses to Muslims all over the city,” remarked another agent.

“I have had dealings in Juhu, Bandra, Peddar Road and Colaba. Around 95 percent of owners flatly refuse Muslims. They give excuses: a flat is not empty or relatives are coming.”

Since the 2008 attacks, which killed about 172 people; a third of them Muslims, Mumbai Muslims, numbering two million of its estimated 19-million populace, fear being targeted because of their faith.

The turbulent history of their city gives credence to their fears.

Nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the Mumbai's 1992-1993 communal violence, triggered by the demolition of a centuries-old mosque at the hands of Hindu zealots in the northern town of Ayodhya.

Capital Too

A similar housing problem faces Muslims in New Delhi's most affluent and educated neighborhoods.

“Another Muslim wanted to take the flat on rent but he was also refused by the owners,” Radha of Gulshan properties in New Friends Colony told The Hindu.

“Even though it suits your budget and needs, there is no point in showing you the flat. The flat has been vacant for a long time but they will not give it to a Muslim.”

Posing as a married Muslim couple, the newspaper's reporters said that residents of mainly-Hindu Rohini Sector-8 area “avoid renting their flats to Muslims here.

“I am sorry but you will not be able to get a house in this locality.”

Prof. Rizwan Qaisar, an academician at Jamia Millia Islamia, faced the same problem while looking for a house in Saket and Munirka DDA Flats in New Delhi.

“Everything was fine till I revealed my name,” Prof. Qaisar said.

“After facing ‘no' from several property dealers, I had to finally shift to Noor Nagar in Jamia Nagar.”

“Several social groups face discrimination in housing but for Muslims the edge is sharper,” he added.

Although such discrimination is rampant, no Muslim wants to come forward to file an official complaint, said Naseem Siddiqui, the Commission's former chairman.

“I have myself told Muslims to find places in Muslim localities,” Siddiqui said.

Muslims have long complained of being discriminated against in all walks of life in Hindu-majority India.

Official figures show Muslims, whom make up around 13 percent of India's 1.1 billion population, are lagging behind in literacy.

Muslims also complain of being discriminated against in jobs.They account for less than seven percent of public service employees, only five percent of railways workers, around four percent of banking employees and there are only 29,000 Muslims in India's 1.3 million-strong military.

Reproduced with permission from