Mumbai: Worrying trend of denying houses over religion, caste

Mumbai resident Trupti Deorukhkar was allegedly denied an office space in Shanti Sadan society in Mulund, citing that she was Marathi speaking.

Mumbai: Worrying trend of denying houses over religion, caste

India is hailed for its amalgamation of cultures, religions, caste, languages, and belief in diversity. However, in recent times, many cases are coming to light where people are being denied houses or office spaces only because they belong to some religion or a caste or a particular language. 

Recently, Mumbai resident Trupti Deorukhkar was allegedly denied an office space in Shanti Sadan society in Mulund, citing that she was Marathi speaking. The ones who denied her the space belonged to the Gujarati community. Deorukhkar took to X and narrated her incident where she vented out her anger about questioning political parties about their stand for Marathi manoos in Maharashtra. She was manhandled and was poorly treated, she claimed.

When her video went viral, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) jumped in and made the father-son duo apologise.

NCP leader Jitendra Awhad too supported Deorukhkar and said this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. Maharashtra belongs to Marathi manoos and if someone tries to mess with the latter, no one will be spared. 

However, he also mentioned in his tweet how Marathi speaking people deny houses to SC families, Muslim families, based on their religion and caste.

According to a Newslaundry report, 73-year-old Kasim Mulla was denied registration because of his religion. He had purchased a 4,000-square-foot plot 50 km away in Kambre Nama village in Mawal Taluka 10 years ago. When he applied for its registration in June he was denied. 

Kambre Nama sarpanch Vaishali Gaikwad and deputy sarpanch Somnath Gaikwad wrote on the front page of the application, “Registration cannot be done because the concerned person is from the religion of Islam”.

Somnath, in his defence, said the village has never allowed any Muslims and will not allow them as they don’t want any dispute. 

This is not just Kasim’s story, but such incidents have been taking place in India’s financial capital where families have to run pillar to post owing to their religion. 

Mumbai resident Aafreen Jaffer was born in Mumbai and her mum too. Her whole family, including her grandmother, grandfather, great grandparents, are all Marathi speaking and they hail from Raigad. Yet, until now, her family has been facing rejections because they belong to the Muslim community. “My family and I have always lived in a rented space. And house hunting till date is still a hassle. Everytime, even before going to see the apartment, we have to ask if Muslim family is allowed, followed by all females allowed or not. We get a lot of rejection. In 2011, my sister bought her own house, but for that as well, we had to see a lot of builders' offices and face rejection because of the community we belong to.

After the covid, we again have shifted to rented space.. and we still continue to face the same problem, every time. It is frustrating and the most frustrating part is I can not do anything about it. We are always on the run.”

Ahmedkhan Mahadik with the username @ahmedmahadik shared his experience on X as well. He wrote how he was denied a showroom (sofa and furnishing) in a Marathi-dominated building in Andheri (W). He clarified that the owner had no issues but society had issues and they had made a rule to not lease a flat to a Muslim. He experienced the same in Tardeo where a Jain refused to lease a place, he added. He further wrote that he is a Marathi speaking Muslim from Konkan. 

According to Dhaval Kulkarni, who is an author, believes politicians are the prime culprits who are busy playing dirty politics over Marathi manoos.  

“The prime culprits are the politicians who play politics around #Marathi identity yet have no qualms parking their (slush) money in construction projects where this discrimination is practised. Ask around in Maharashtrian localities like Parel, Lalbag, Chinchpokli etc, and local residents will tell you what this is about.

However, he also touched upon how the Marathi speaking community too discriminates like other communities. 

“Of course, Marathis are accommodating people who are willing to accept and assimilate outsiders. But it is also necessary for Maharashtrians to confront their own deep-rooted sense of casteism and discrimination. Will the residents of Marathi upper-caste dominated localities and housing societies be comfortable with Bahujan, Dalit or Muslim neighbours in their midst? Will we confront this elephant in the room?”

The research report titled ‘Socio-spatial Segregation and Exclusion in Mumbai’ by Abdul Shaban & Zinat Aboli, published online in 2021, speaks on the highest level of segregation in Mumbai, which is is based on religion (Muslims and Non-Muslims), followed by class, caste and tribe.

The report cites, “The cityscape of Mumbai is fractured on class, caste and religion. In terms of religion, the city is largely polarised in Hindu and Muslim areas. The Muslim concentrated areas have been shaped and reinforced by frequent communal riots and discriminations against Muslims in the formal and informal housing markets. Dongri, Pydhonie, Nagpada, Byculla, Mazgaon, Mahim in Mumbai city district, Bharat Nagar, Millat Nagar, Behrampada and Jogeshwari in Western Suburb, and Kurla, Sonapur–Bhandup, Govandi, Cheeta Camp and Kidwai Nagar (Wadala East) in Eastern Suburb are examples of areas where there is a high concentration of Muslim populations.

Between 1927 and 2008, a total of 84 Hindu–Muslim riots have been recorded in the city. In these riots, about 1870 persons have been killed, 8463 injured and millions of rupees in property has been destroyed. The incidence of riots between the two religious communities was very high prior to Independence. The decade of the 1950s was a relatively peaceful period. But the city again experienced a higher incidence of riots during 1970–75, 1984–87, 1991–93 (see Wilkinson 2005; Punwani 2018; Shaban 2008; 2016; 2018)."

The report has also highlighted how the fear of riots and violence has kept Muslim populations concentrated in a few pockets of the city, and these pockets are transforming into underclass ghettos. 

“The communal production of spaces not only manifests various forms of injustices but actually produces and reproduces them, and thereby maintains established social relations based on domination and oppression.

To bridge these social and spatial divides, the city needs new emancipatory politics. The emancipation from suppression, domination, repression and exclusion. This emancipatory approach should be able to free and liberate those trapped and incarcerated in space, chained to a place or disabled by socially produced spaces. This politics needs to end the social devalourisation of communities and avert social exclusion and spatial segregation.”

It is disheartening to see the worrying trend of denying houses over someone’s religion or caste. Along with political parties, it is necessary for us as a society too, to put an end to discrimination and segregation among different communities, religions and castes. 

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