In a highly communally-charged article, the Hindu reports on a supposed “housing apartheid” that seems to exist in Delhi. Although the piece is focussed on Delhi, one can’t help feeling that the content of the piece can be extrapolated to other Indian cities and reach the same conclusions.
First, the casual usage of the word “apartheid” merits closer examination. Apartheid was once an exclusively South African state policy of political, economic and legal discrimination against non-white South Africans. Since then, the usage of the term has expanded to mean a generic discrimination against specific peoples in a country. Which is why it’s curious why the Hindu used that term so casually—the last time we heard, the Indian Constitution or state doesn’t practice apartheid against any caste, creed, community, tribe or language in any form. If anything, even if the abuse of any person is perceived to be casteist or “communal,” it’s automatically treated as a non-bailable offence.
However, what has irked the Hindu enough to blindly use that loaded term is the fact that most (non-Muslim) property agents and owners in Delhi are loath to rent out their houses to Muslims.
an investigation by The Hindu has found, almost impossible for citizens who happen to be Muslim…a property agent representing a homeowner in New Friends Colony flatly told The Hindu‘s reporters, “The landlords want only Indians, not Muslims.”…Deepak Sharma of Balaji Properties in Rohini Sector-8,…“avoid renting their flats to Muslims here…Property dealers seemed to operate an informal network of religious segregation, often pointing The Hindu‘s reporters to supposedly Muslim-appropriate neighbourhoods.
And on and on, the piece continues in this vein, piling anecdote upon anecdote. Sowmiya Ashok and Mohammad Ali, the author-duo of this communal piece don’t seem to realize a commonsense fact that’s self-evident to most people: property owners are fully within their rights as Indian citizens to rent out their property to anybody or refuse to do so. If they don’t want to rent out their house to a Muslim, they’re well within their rights to do so. Nobody including the Prime Minister can force them against their will in the matter. We wonder how this constitutes a “housing apartheid (sic).” It’s not that Sowmiya & co isn’t aware of this commonsense fact. The fact that the piece contains the following nugget is very revealing:
Senior lawyer Ashok Agarwal said a solution to the problem does not lie in the legal sphere. “First of all, practically it is very difficult to prove the existence of this malaise,” he said, adding, “the government cannot regulate private housing.”
This statement is not only revealing but has sinister motives as we shall see.
The Hindu “investigative” piece is simply a series of anecdotes, which are collated to build a communal narrative that tries to pass off as some kind of objective truth of a contemporary social phenomenon in urban India. Since the piece seems to be fond of using anecdotes to prove a point, here’s one from my side. A personal anecdote. A real event that unfolded before my own eyes from childhood till early adulthood.
I was born in a huge ancestral house in a small town near Bangalore where I was raised for three years and visited it several times each year till 1993-94. My locality comprised some 6-7 blocks, a sizeable area inhabited almost completely by Hindus—only a few tiny Muslim houses existed on the fringes of this locality. Almost all houses on my road, which stretched for about half a kilometre, were spacious by any standard (if I recall correctly, the “smallest” house was built on a land measuring about 4000 Sq ft).
One of these Muslim houses was owned by a fellow who was running a lorry transport business with exactly one lorry at his disposal. Nobody knows when or how he made it big but what we knew was the fact that he purchased the huge house of a family friend in our locality—5-6 blocks from where we lived. Our family friend simply couldn’t resist the enormous sum he offered.
Things began to change slowly but steadily.
During my summer vacation after that land deal, I noticed how completely the house had changed. The compound wall, which was made of stone and was scalable even by kids, was now tall and imposing and painted green. An enormous dome visible even from a long distance jutted out from the middle of the compound inside, dwarfing the tall compound wall. Stuff was engraved in Urdu all over the green wall.
That change was stark and shocking and is still embedded in my memory because that was the house I used to walk into with childish impunity and have all my tantrums catered to by the erstwhile inmates. Other changes began to occur, although not with such utterness. Over the years, that man began to buy out smaller Hindu houses using the same tactic of monetary lure. He then rented them out to his friends, relatives, and employees.
And then in the course of about 7-8 years, two new mosques made their appearance in my locality. Then, a government doctor who lived opposite my house was transferred to Bangalore. He let out his house to a relative of that transport guy. Elsewhere in the locality, there was a sudden increase in the population of pigs. Eventually, these beasts multiplied phenomenally and spilled over to our street and claimed it. Waste and filth flooded the already-overflowing public garbage pits. Municipal lorries were prohibited from picking them up. Complaints to authorities fell on deaf ears.
When the government doctor returned to inspect his house after 2 years, he was appalled to note how comprehensively the tenants had altered it. He simply named a price, sold it to the tenants, and left town forever. A couple of years later, the palatial home at the end of my road—our ancestral home stood at the other end—was bought out by some rich Muslim grain merchant. Other developments had occurred in parallel. I was in college then. One October, I woke up to the fact that the community Ganesha festival had been discontinued that year for good. Apparently, the “troubles” had began to gradually escalate over the past 3-4 years. Muslim neighbours would complain to the cops about the loud devotional songs. The cops would rush in and shut the festivities down not after bitter altercations with the festival organizers. The pandals that housed the Ganesha idol would be mysteriously slashed overnight. Fruits and vegetables set as offering for the God would disappear.
And then finally, it hit home. During different festivals that we used to celebrate throughout the year, our family priests who came home to conduct puja would be “accidentally” touched by Muslim youth roaming on the street—which itself had by now, become a common occurrence. When this “accident” increased in frequency, the priests stopped coming home. Then, grandmother gradually got used to being greeted by generous amounts of pig excreta, which awaited her every morning when she woke up to clean the compound. The pig excreta seemed to materialize overnight, every night. The compound stayed clean throughout the day till bedtime. Equally, my uncles and aunts and all our tenant-families who lived in the compound got used to listening to loud and vulgar obscenities exchanged between Muslim youths who thronged outside our gate indulging in friendly banter. Nobody could ask them to leave.
By then, the entire locality had become completely Islamic.
And so, ultimately, we sold the house standing on a land of 10,000 Sq Ft in 1993-94 for a kingly ransom of 40,000 rupees.
I narrated this personal history in a series of tweets, which the good Barbarindian has preserved. What I didn’t expect was the deluge or the immediacy of responses on Twitter from people who had undergone worse, and in some cases, brutal experiences. These are people hailing from the proverbial length and breadth of India. My Twitter timeline was jammed with such real-life stories. Here are a few such real-life stories.
Therefore, I highly recommend the Hindu to send a similar—or same—team of investigative journalists to this all-Muslim locality—or similar localities anywhere in India—posing as prospective property-buyers who are Hindus. Their findings will be illuminative, illustrative studies in “housing apartheid.”
The Hindu’s biased reportage disguised as an investigation follows a familiar vein. In 2009, there was a similar story published by the Telegraph, which went largely unnoticed. On the other hand, the story in 2008 where Shabana Azmi sneered at the Indian state because she couldn’t buy a house in Mumbai because she was a Muslim was widely circulated for obviously secular reasons. Which is why the Hindu won’t ever do a story on the plight of Hindus who were forced to sell their property at dirt cheap prices in Muslim-majority localities. Few things can match the pull of the minority victimhood card.
The whole narrative is notable for the absence of a singular strand: the real reason Hindus refuse rented housing for Muslims in Hindu-majority areas/colonies. And this strand is absent precisely because of that reason. The Islamic demographic siege, which occurs over time and in small increments is just one factor. The other factor is the perception of Muslims everywhere in the world of late. No amount of editorial apologies and noble analyses can change the public perception of Muslims, which is—to put it mildly—anything but friendly. Definitely not when instances like this repeatedly occur across the nation.
The Mysore police claimed to have nabbed two terrorists of Pakistani origin from the Al Badr group…The police identified the arrested men as Fahad alias Mohammed Koya from Karachi and Mohammed Ali Hussain alias Jahangir…The landlady of the Rajeev Nagar house…where the two alleged militants stayed since August 16…Kanthamma Ravikumar said: “The person called Mohammed Koya rented our house and signed the rent agreement….Only on Friday morning when they were brought here that we realized they could have been terrorists.’’
The silence of the Muslim community over such incidents also doesn’t help matters. And despite all this, the fact that the Hindu’s “investigation” blames the Hindu community for practising “housing apartheid” shows the ugly nature of its bias. If anything, Hindus are scared to rent out their property to Muslims. No amount of editorializing or squeamishness or political correctness can alter this current reality. Equally, trying to pretend that this reality doesn’t exist will only escalate the issue.
Not that one should be surprised at the Hindu’s motivated reportage. For a paper that justified the mass-murder of Hindus in the Sabarmati Express by claiming that the Hindus had invited their own death, finding “housing apartheid” against Muslims is a cakewalk. In other words, the Hindu story is simply the latest bout of playing up minority victimhood for the umpteenth time. Now recall the authors’ note quoting the lawyer. That points to a sinister design in the long-term: pushing for government intervention in the issue of private housing. And why not? The pliable UPA dispensation, which has already pushed through several legislations—brainchildren of the fiendish NAC—aimed at choking our freedoms step by step, has regularly demonstrated that it’s willing to push similar freedom-limiting legislations provided they’re adorned with noble-sounding ornaments.