Ghettoisation not in my name either

Pune cannot take for granted its reputation of being a safe and secular city. #NotInMyName has given it the opportunity to look within

Written by Sunanda Mehta | Published: July 2, 2017 10:19 am
Not In My Name, #NotInMyName, jantar mantar, jantar mantar protests, lynching, india lynching, Junaid Khan, Junaid Khan death, india news A participant shows a placard during a silent protest “Not in My Name” against the targeted lynching, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI Photo by Shahbaz Khan

It was a march that matched those of other cities. Last week when the call for Notinmyname resounded in Pune, the city reacted with characteristic unanimity. Students, celebs, artists, thinkers- poured out into the streets wearing their angst around their necks, displaying their abhorrence to the culture of lynching that was sweeping across the country.

It was a gesture much needed in the city that deep down needs to start doing some soul searching too.

Pune, the Mecca for students and techies, has embraced and absorbed people from all cultures and castes long enough to well deserve its title of a cosmopolitan city. Still relatively safe, still relatively open to outsiders, still relatively comfortable with its rapid changes in terms of population explosion and a subsequently overburdened infrastructure.

Relatively. Because scratch beneath the surface and the barely concealed scars show up all too easily. Some historic, some recently hashtagged.

In the latter category lies the 2014 incident that changed the perception of Pune forever. In June that year Mohin Shaikh a 28-year-old techie from Solapur, was attacked and killed by Hindu right-wing activists. Shaikh was targeted by a mob protesting some derogatory remarks on the social media and he was killed because of the skullcap he wore and the beard he sported.

(Coincidentally Shaikh was also in news a couple of weeks ago as the special public prosecutor appointed to fight for justice for him, Ujwal Nikam, exited from the case. The move has compounded the trials of Shaikh’s family that for the last three years are running from pillar to post for justice even as of the 21 accused of the murder, only three are behind bars, with the rest having being granted bail.)

Shaikh’s brutal murder, in a manner close to lynching (he was attacked by a large mob who beat him with hockey sticks and smashed his head on a cement block), caused deep cracks in the hitherto secular-cosmopolitan-tolerant reputation of the city.

It was like a wake-up call for those who believed that Pune may have had to absorb stray streams of extremism and intolerance in the past and a fairly dominant right wing in the present, but its was capable of containing the differences and dealing with situations fairly sensitively. It was time to look at the journey Pune seemed to have undertaken — from progressiveness to polarisation.

Shaikh’s murder was an aberration. But the city cannot deny or defend itself when it comes to one very visible manifestation of divisive behavior. It’s a fissure that slowly emerged as late as in the 1990s but which rapidly deepened over the next two decades to make for such a strong realty that today it is an unspoken rule in the city.

This is the all too familiar ghettoisation of the Muslim community.

While earlier the community was fairly evenly spread out in various parts of the city like Yerwawada, Deccan and Bhavani Peth, after the Mumbai riots of 1993, the Muslim families began to move out of the Hindu dominated areas to the peripheries. Today the community is more or less restrained to the sprawling suburb of Kondhwa.

Officially titled as one of the “most sensitive” areas of the city by the authorities, its where the forces are first deployed if there is a fear of communal violence flaring up anywhere in the city.

I remember a story I did a few years ago when Madhavi Kapur, principal of one of the city’s prominent schools known for its inclusiveness, took up the cudgels on behalf of people who wanted to buy her apartment, after her Sindhi-dominated society in the upmarket Bund Garden area started pressurizing her not to sell the place to a Muslim family.

Stories such as these are all too common in every area of the city. A truth everyone knows but which rarely makes it to the headlines.

So even as the city joins the outcry resonating in every corner of the country, isn’t it time to go beyond marches and start where one can? To take actions that speak louder than words- or placards? For inclusiveness also begins at home — quite literally.

It may not be possible to take on right wing activists or weed out the seeds of divisiveness planted by bigots over the decades, but surely at an individual level a small beginning can be made? It’s time to end this ghettoisation that is the biggest symbol of polarisation in the city today, in any city for that matter.

The next time anyone is turned away from your society by the management or discouraged by the affable real estate broker on instructions from the residents because of his or her religion, put your foot down. Stop divisiveness from where it begins. Only then can anyone in this city lay a genuine claim to the cry-not in my name.

Sunanda Mehta is the Resident Editor of the Indian Express' Pune edition. She tweets @sunandamehta

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. S
    Jul 3, 2017 at 10:36 am
    Hello, while i appreciate your article, there is a counter point. Few Muslims, when allowed into a multi cultural society, start domination it in the name of their religion and force others to sell their flats and /or force their religious activities by using loud speakers through the day, converting a sanitorium into a function palace and harassing the residents to no end. This is reverse ghettizization
    1. R
      Jul 3, 2017 at 1:41 am
      Hum sabhi ko ek baat samajhna jaroori hai ki ...mazhab nahi sikhaata aapas mein ber rakhna Hindi hai hum watan hai Hindustan hamara saare kahan SE achha Hindustan hamara.....aur sabhi logon SE kehna chahunga ki...I am not hindu, muslim,Sikh and Christian I am just a INDIAN sabhi ko samajhna jaroori hai.....aur aap kin ke behkaave mein AA rahe ho ....yeh sirf kursi ke bhooke hain....bolne ko bahut hai but jaane do....sabse badi bhool .... e banaya public ko fool
      1. P
        Jul 2, 2017 at 1:30 pm
        This selective outrage is typical of the pervert minds and they are free to indulge in all sorts of experiments where the others are not made to suffer. Houses are not given to muslims because of their radical behaviour and other insecular practices. With engineers doctors..and other highly educated muslims turning up as terrorists ,who in his right mind would choose to experiment with the nuisance that will follow once that happens. Try and educate the community instead to give up their dogmatic ways and lead a secular public life ,like most indians do.
        1. K
          Kamal Pasha
          Jul 2, 2017 at 12:33 pm
          India has become a lawless country under BJP rule. Most of the crimes at done by BJP members with the blessings of BJP mininters and officials. The lynching, killings and burning of the properties and houses of innocents are done just by blaming the victims about beef. Never heard of these types of crimes during Congress rule.
          1. L
            Jul 2, 2017 at 12:48 pm
            Last year 80 BJP workers were killed in south alone. Do you know or not? The lynchings were more in 2011, 2012 , 2013 go thru police reports.
            1. K
              Kamal Pasha
              Jul 2, 2017 at 1:36 pm
              Lovely : All your comments are akways out of context. That is why the country is suffering.
              1. V
                Jul 3, 2017 at 12:35 pm
                Wow, such a lovely response. So let's ignore the people who killed BJP workers and kill Muslims in different parts of India. Why? I don't know maybe cuz I am stupid and would like the opportunity to make love to Modi?
              2. R
                Jul 3, 2017 at 3:16 pm
                I did hear it, a lot. There have lots of riots, burning houses, looting shops, after independence under Congress. It's just that they want Muslim votes, they appease the minorities a lot, and protect them.