The prospect of relocating the displaced Muslim families from Kalyannagar slums to Sayajipura under the JNNURM through a draw conducted by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation on Thursday, has a new twist.
Now, real estate developers have pressed the panic button and joined the protesting residents who plan to move the Gujarat High Court. Builders have approached their associations in distress after customers began withdrawing bookings from up-scale projects, anxious about having Muslims as neighbours.
The residents, who have planned to file a PIL in the HC on the grounds that the state government has framed policies to separate neighbourhoods of the two communities under the Disturbed Areas Act in many parts of the city.
Advocate Shailesh Vyas, who is also a BJP leader, confirmed that real estate developers were backing the PIL.
“Residents and developers are anxious about their properties losing value. The PIL is not against a community but the policy error made by the VMC in this case and its mismanagement. They cannot thrust one community on another when past experiences have been sour. The builders lobby has offered to bear the entire cost of fighting out this case in the HC as the state government has refused to go against its own administration.”
Late on Friday, angry residents of Sayajipura blocked traffic at the Khodiyarnagar junction and damaged a private bus during their agitation against the VMC’s decision to move the Muslim families to Sayajipura after Thursday’s draw for 340 flats in the JNNURM schemes. Developers in the area say their request with local BJP corporator Dadu Gadhvi and BJP MLA Manisha Vakil had yielded no result despite their promise.
A developer said, “The moment we heard that Muslim residents of Kalyannagar were to be moved to Sayajipura through a housing draw conducted in January, we immediately met the political leaders and expressed our fears. Posh Hindu customers do not wish to live in areas where Muslims reside in large numbers. This is an upcoming area with private residential projects worth crores. The leaders had promised us a resolution but they have buckled under pressure and gone back on their word. We have no choice but to move the HC.”
According to developers in the area, several upcoming up-scale private residential projects are facing the prospect of losing out on business. A developer, who has had three customers withdraw from his almost ready scheme of duplex tenements in the neighbourhood, said, “Customers were willing to forgo the benefit they had received as part of the pre-booking offers earlier where we had offered some incentives to them. In fact, we tried to discourage them by offering value back lesser than the market price, but people were willing to let go of a couple of lakhs. If this relocation of Muslims in this neighbourhood really happens, real estate will suffer losses running into crores.”
A Jain developer said customers booking properties in the area are primarily from the Jain community, apart from Brahmins and other upper castes, deterring them from moving into a neighbourhood they now perceive as communal.
The developer said for the last one week, very few customers have shown interest in buying property in the projects.
He said, “Two of my customers have approached me to cancel the booking but I have requested them to not take a hasty decision as we are hoping to resolve the matter. The customers, who are mostly Jains and upper caste Hindus see bringing in Muslims as a detrimental factor for the property appreciation. Their feeling is not unfounded as Muslim neighbourhoods are known to lack cleanliness and the community insists on fastening goats to their doors for almost the entire year.”
Hemant Patel, vice-president of Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (CREDAI) Vadodara, confirmed that builders of upcoming projects in the Sayajipura locality had made distress calls in the last two days after customers approached them to withdraw bookings. The calls came after the VMC went ahead and allotted homes to 340 families of Kalyannagar on Thursday.
Patel said that the discord between communities has an adverse effect on properties in the long run.
Patel said the VMC can reconsider its decision and allot homes to Muslim families in other areas for the benefit of both communities.