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Compulsorily mixed housing is an excellent way to dismantle the ghetto

By: Express News Service |
Updated: January 13, 2015 12:00:54 am

In an interaction with this newspaper last week, Maharashtra DGP Sanjeev Dayal reflected on the factors that have led to increasing radicalisation among Muslim youth and called for a holistic approach involving multiple government departments. The youth are often attracted to ideologies and groups that seek to disrupt the state and its institutions because they are alienated from society. The alienation arises from grievances perceived and real, including faulty state policies and societal discrimination. It is hence important to create a sense of belonging among the youth to prevent the growth of radical ideologies focused on the creation of an exclusivist religious state.

In this context, Dayal spoke about the discrimination rampant in housing, especially against Muslims, which forces the community into ghettos. The very statement, from the head of a state police force, in a leading metro like Mumbai — and the city is not an exception — is a positive step. Ghettos fuel ignorance and fear of the other. And, ironically, the people who are forced into ghettos by rejection elsewhere are blamed for ghettoisation. The social prejudice that causes the exclusion of members of a particular community from affordable housing is ignored. The ghetto, in turn, begins to believe that the administration too shares the prejudiced social mindset that created it in the first place. Any failure of governance is perceived to be a deliberate and targeted act of discrimination by public officials — which, of course, may be true in some cases.

Dayal’s suggestion that the government may discriminate positively in favour of minorities, as a step towards erasing ghettos, calls for serious attention. A state-mandated quota system in public housing, as in Singapore, and tax incentives for communally inclusive housing projects could be tried out. Neighbourhoods and residential areas that are more representative would help erase mistrust and misunderstanding between religious communities and make each tolerant and respectful of the other’s beliefs and traditions. No amount of policing or governmental vigilance can produce a social fabric as durable as one woven by a multi-religious society, spun out of on mutual trust and respect. Segregated housing only guarantees a society that nurtures mistrust and fear of the other — which is a mythical monster of its own creation.

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