Growing up in Gujarat post-2002 riots exposed her to religious prejudice and forced ghettoisation. So when Misbah Quadri moved to Mumbai, she hoped the city, known for its cosmopolitan culture, would treat her better.
However, the 25-year-old communications professional is today knocking on the doors of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) after she was denied a flat in the city just because she is a Muslim. After a hard search, Ms. Quadri found a tidy 3-BHK apartment at Sanghvi Heights in Wadala. Her new flatmates — two working women, in their early twenties and Hindu — found her on Facebook.
However, a day before Ms. Quadri was to shift, the apartment’s broker warned that the housing society did not accept Muslim tenants. Even if something worked out, the broker told her, she would have to sign a “no-objection certificate” declaring that if she faced any harassment from her neighbours because of her religion, the builder, the owner and the broker “would not be legally responsible.” She was also asked to submit her resume. Though she disagreed with the terms, she moved in because the notice period at her previous flat expired and her flatmates supported her and she hoped for a compromise later.
But within a week, the agent contacted her again. “He threatened to call the cops and throw me out of the flat. It got very ugly.” When she approached the representative of the builder, she was told that it was “a policy” of the company not to have Muslim tenants. She was then served an ultimatum to vacate the house. Ultimately, she was forced to leave the flat. Incidentally, the other women had to pay a price for sheltering a Muslim; they have vacated the house unwillingly.
Ms. Quadri’s case is not an exception. Last November, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) passed a resolution seeking to deny key clearances to builders and housing societies that discriminate against buyers on the basis of caste, religion or food habits. However, it still awaits sanction by the Urban Development Ministry, says MNS corporator Sandeep Deshpande, who submitted the proposal.
“There is still no reply on it. Only after the UD implements the proposal can the BMC punish the offending builders and housing societies. The other alternative is to lodge an FIR,” Mr. Deshpande said.
Social activist Meena Seshu, who is assisting the women reach the NHRC, raised concern that “unacceptable” cases of discrimination on religion and caste were increasing.
Shailesh Sanghvi, director of Sanghvi Group of builders, did not respond to The Hindu’s calls or messages.