By Ram Puniyani
One does not know from newspaper reports, as to which version is true, why should Emraan state what he has stated? One also knows that similar trend of Muslims being denied houses in mixed localities have been there earlier as well. No society or builder will officially state that a people from particular religion are not permitted in their complex, these things operate in a very subtle way. Last year Shabana Azmi also was denied her choice to buy the house in a particular area. To that also many people just disbelieved it and many others ridiculed the actor, doubting the authenticity of the fact. It sometimes really sounds surreal that an actor is being denied a flat in a particular housing complex.
The peak of the reaction is seen in the form of a BJP activist filing a case against the actor for promoting communal enmity! Earlier Shabana Azmi and now Emraan Hashmi have faced this situation. There are many other such cases which might have been there but not known to us. For those who interact with large section of the community it is no secret that this type of denial persists more so in Mumbai and also in other places. The religion-caste based societies are there and they are a big set back to the process of national integration, which began during freedom movement. This process has been going on with lots of hiccups due to the rising communal violence, the outcome of communal politics, which aims at communal polarization.
The exclusions of ‘others’ is of various types. There are Parsi, Jain societies which have excluded those not belonging to their religion. In the aftermath of carnage many a Muslims after taking the beating decide to migrate away from the mixed localities to migrate to safer pastures, which later on come to be dubbed as Mini Pakistan’s. The latest observation has been the members of minority community have not been permitted to return to their original abodes. This was observed in Gujarat and later in Kandhmal. Similarly in areas where Muslims are in majority Hindus have been leaving that area voluntarily. The seeds of suspicion, which make them leave, are sown due to prevailing social common sense which demonizes the minorities. This process of exclusion by choice or by force of circumstances, both is very harmful for the national integration; to the concept of fraternity in particular gets a big beating due to this. Some of Mumbai’s suburbs, Mumbra, Bhendi Bazar, Jogeshwari have come up as areas with heavy concentration of Muslims. This concentration went up in the aftermath of the Mumbai violence of 1992-93. In Gujarat also in most cities Muslims got further isolated in the wake of 2002 carnage.
Due to this pattern of violence the general perceptions in society have worsened and now the whole Muslim community is painted as the homogenous uniform body painted in a color, which has nothing to do with truth. Further this physical isolation intensifies the negativity of perceptions about the ‘other’ community and this is mutually reciprocated by different religious communities. This lack of trust in fellow Indians is extremely dangerous.
So far, those complaining against the discrimination in allotment of housing were at least heard but now they are been alleged to be creating enmity! We cannot gloss over societal problems and expect that they are not there. Ostrich like, we can not hide our heads in the sands of make believe, and deny the realities. It is only after properly understanding the social problems that we can solve it. Emran Hashmi in a way has mustered courage to bring forward the phenomenon which is very much there. To treat such a person as culprit is like accusing the girl who has been raped, as saying that she has invited it! In a way this is also the pattern of society, to accuse the victims as having brought the misery onto themselves because of their own fallacies. There is a perception that Muslims start the riots and invite the trouble for themselves. This of course is far from true as a research by a police officer shows (V.N.Rai, Combating Communal Conflicts) and by the inquiry Commission reports including the latest one of Srikrishna Commission report which studies Mumbai riots.
Technicalities apart we need to address this serious social issue. We have examples in small countries like Singapore, where in the Government housing scheme there are reservations for different ethnic groups. This ensures that people from different ethnic-religious communities are neighbors and have an inbuilt situation where they interact socially. We are far from that. The biased builders and subtle operation of biases in the housing complexes needs to be done away by measures which are multilayered. Legal protection, affirmative action and debunking the misconceptions about minorities are the need of the hour. The compromise struck between the actor and society is welcome and kindles the hope that these exclusionary trends get wiped out in due course, one also hopes we are able to overcome these biases against our own citizens and create a more amicable atmosphere for all of us to live together.