Muslims shunned from housing societies, Why?

By Dr. Mookhi Amir Ali,

If you want honey, it is said, do not kick the beehive. Kick the beehive is exactly what Emraan Hashmi did when he wanted a particular flat in a particular building. He was refused an NOC by the Housing Society without which the flat cannot be transferred to him. He had reasons to believe that he was denied the NOC because of his being a Muslim. He, in the company of Mahesh Bhatt in front of NDTV camera, went to town on secularism and communal virus etc. Unfortunately their eloquence sounded like the diatribe against majority community and an allegation against one community of persecuting the other.

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A complaint has been lodged against Emraan Hashmi under relevant sections. To add to his own woe, Emraan has no proof of being discriminated against on the basis of religion. Society has denied the charge. Emraan Hashmi has a lot to wriggle out from and he eventually will and put the episode behind him.

What he is not going to forget easily is the double whammy he received from Mumbai film industry’s Khan duo; Shahrukh and Salman. They said what Emraan Hashmi is complaining about is something unheard of. It is strange coming from the Khans because they should surely know that there are others, like Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar in the industry, who have experienced the exclusion which Hashmi did. Perhaps the Khans mean to tell us that Muslims should not, forever, keep on whining and that they should ask themselves why it is happening and how to go about setting things right. The two Khans are intelligent people and the community is proud of them. Surely, they should know that if we remain in total denial of the problem, the problem is not going to run away.

The problem which Emraan claims to have faced is an age old problem in the city of Mumbai and elsewhere. Forty years ago my next door neighbour [Agarwal Saab, to me.] repeatedly got assurance from the builder/seller of the flat that there were no Muslims in the building before he bought and occupied the flat next to me, a Muslim. That my family and Agarwal Saab’s family lived like one family for two decades and that, after forty long years, my child and his children exchange regular messages across continents is a different story.

Like Khans of Bollywood I have had an excellent experience from the Hindu community. Born and brought up in a place where there was no Muslim house within a kilometre, I have spent my childhood playing in Hindus‘ houses. Almost all of my classmates, teachers, friends, colleagues and clients have been Hindus. I have lived for nearly forty years as the only Muslim in a housing society. My religion has been much respected by my Hindu neighbours as, indeed, I have respected theirs. My Hindu neighbours and Hindu colleagues would say “sorry” before taking their cup of tea to the lips in the month of Ramazan. I have been the permanent invitee to “puja” in all houses. Much loved and much accepted as their own by Hindus, I sing paeans to their tolerant spirit and their inclusiveness and large-heartedness and feel fortunate to be the citizen of the secular India.
However, it does not make sense to be in such a vehement denial of the realities which the wonderful young men Shahrukh and Salman apparently are. I was heartbroken when I went looking for a flat to buy, as my own building was being redeveloped. Emraan Hashmi was not given the NOC to buy the flat he wanted, but he was not told on his face that the reason for refusal was his faith. I was told so on my face. I saw to my dismay that there are many buildings in the suburbs of Mumbai that do not want a Muslim inmate. There are vast areas where groups of Housing Societies have jointly decided not to let a Muslim live in their locality. Local estate agents have been instructed not to bring in Muslim buyers. In one suburb an estate agent rattled the names of the buildings which were out of bound for Muslims. All this hurt me no end. I have not discussed this with any of my Hindu friends. I have felt embarrassed and humiliated to face the fact that my community is so expansively shunned. But unless the community continuously wants to wallow in the quagmire it is in, it must rise and face the facts, do some soul-searching, go into the reasons of their malady and do some course-correction. The likes of Shahrukh, Salman, Saif and Shabana should take the lead.

The following are a few lines from Dr. Rafiq Zakaria’s book “Communal Rage in Secular India”.

“They should do some introspection and ask whether they have genuinely tried to contribute to the strengthening of Hindu-Muslim relations since Partition. The answer will be no. (Page 191)

“Indian Muslims must open their eyes to the ground reality that an increasing number of Hindus have begun to hate them.” (Page 193). “This is not confined to a small section; it has infected the rich as much as the poor; men as much as women; the young as much as the old; even children are no longer free from it.” (Page 201)

“This is the ugly reality that Muslims have to face in today’s India. They have to do their best to bring about a change in the hostile attitude of the communal Hindus towards them. This is as much in their interest as that of the nation. Muslims continue to live in a make-believe world of their own. [Page 202]

(The author is a social activist and freelance writer based in Mumbai)