April 22, 2013 2:27:28 am
Salim Sayad (43) spent his childhood in Thanes Teen Haath Naka area. It was natural that he wished to own a house in the locality,but what he did not foresee was the stiff resistance he would face in realising his dream. Sayad,who had been living on rent in Kashish Park where a majority of residents is Hindu for the past three years,was blatantly told by the society that he could not buy a house there.
In October last year,Sayad decided to put his earnings into a 1-BHK flat in the complex. He paid Rs 34 lakh and after completing the formalities,approached the society for a No Objection Certificate (NOC). However,he was allegedly told that no Muslim can own a house here.
Despite an order from the District Deputy Registrar directing the society to issue the NOC,and an order allowing him to get the property registered,the society is yet to relent. An order from the State Minorities Commission in March notwithstanding,the Thane Police Commissioner also did not take any action in the case.
Sayads is one of four recent cases pending before the State Minorities Commission. Panel chairperson Munaf Hakim said this is not even a hundredth of the number of instances in which people from the minority community are denied housing on discriminatory grounds.
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How does one intervene? Though discriminating against someones religion or beliefs is an offence,none of these offenders does it openly, said Hakim. It is not always religion; some housing societies do not want non-vegetarians to rent or buy property in their buildings, he added.
In Sayads case,the violation was not subtle. When I confronted the society chairman and members,they spoke politely but sternly. They said they have done a huge favour in allowing me to rent a flat here,but buying was out of question. They also intimidated the flat owner from whom I bought the property, Sayad alleged.
Mention of legal action did not intimidate them,Sayad said. He said one of the three persons against whom his case is pending,told him,Asa nyay bhetla asta tar,jag kuthlya kuthe gela asta (the world would have changed if justice were to be available so easily).
It is not just the middle-class or the poor who face such discrimination. Film and television artistes have also complained of similar discrimination. In Bhumi Classic apartments in Malad,only Hindus find accommodation. According to actor Dolly Bindra of Big Boss fame,the day her sister shifted there to live with her,the neighbours first hinted indirectly. Then they launched a full-throttle attack.
This was because Bindras sister married a Muslim and converted to Islam,she said. Bindras case is one of the cases pending with the Commission,and is scheduled for hearing next month. Her sisters kids refuse to go down to the playground as the neighbours start shouting slogans and embarrass them, said Bindras lawyer Kshitij Mehta.
In 2009,actor Emraan Hashmi approached the Commission against the alleged refusal of a housing colony in the plush Pali Hill locality to give him a flat. Hashmi later withdrew the complaint.
Niyaz Mazgaonkar from Dahisar,approached the Commission. He,too,tried to buy property at a complex in Dahisar,but was refused owing to his religion. Mazgaonkars case has been registered with the Commission and an order is pending in the case.
Buyers and sellers are ready to strike a deal; the society has little role to play. But they impose indirect restrictions,which are difficult to keep under check. In cases of blatant discrimination,the commission can intervene,but few come to us, Hakim said,attributing this to delays in the legal process.
In some areas of south Mumbai like Walkeshwar,Malabar Hill,Peddar Road and Breach Candy,in the western suburbs of Vile Parle,Bandra,Borivali and Kandivali,and the eastern suburbs of Ghatkopar,Sion and Mulund,it is difficult for Muslims to buy or rent flats,said an officer at the Commission.
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