Arrest Mumbai's degeneration

Arrest Mumbai's degeneration

Mumbai, a bustling cosmopolitan city and India’s commercial capital, known historically for its inclusiveness and as a place where people turned to for jobs, livelihood and a bright future, is slipping into regressive times. The denial of a flat to 25-year-old Misbah Qadri, a female professional, because she happened to be a Muslim and the turning away of Zeshan Ali Khan, a 22-year-old job applicant for the same reason are depressing signs that the city is losing its culture of broad-mindedness, generosity and most important of all, humanness.  

In recent years, similar instances of raw discrimination on the grounds of religion have surfaced periodically from Mumbai. While it would be tempting to brush them aside as exceptions, the latest instances should be treated as warning signs that hidden fault lines are opening up with potentially grave consequences. What is surprising, or rather shocking, is that in a mature democracy like India with a Constitution that upholds equality, we have a situation where discrimination is practised openly and fearlessly. The company, Hari Krishna Exports, which rejected an applicant because he was a Muslim must be prosecuted ruthlessly, sending a clear signal that such behaviour will not be tolerated. Discrimination of any kind is possibly the worst kind of trade practice and if shoved under the carpet can lead to worse things. 

As for the housing scene in Mumbai, most residential buildings are controlled by associations or cooperative societies which exert a mafia-like hold over the inmates. Making a mockery of India’s hard-won freedom and basic rights of the individual, these societies step in and dictate who a flat is sold to, who a new buyer is, the background of a tenant etc. The managing committees of these societies can, in effect, veto the decision of a flat owner. Due to this, entire housing blocks and apartments are accessible only to particular communities and, in some, reportedly only to sub-sects of specific castes. No one from outside these privileged communities or sects can ever hope to live in these flats. It is time that the government steps in and brings in laws that minimise the hold of the societies or associations over the flat owners and introduce penal provisions that deal strictly with those who discriminate. The issue is not just confined to Mumbai. Already such abhorrent practices are spreading to other cities and if this is not stemmed, it could lead to ghettoisation of communities across the country, a clear recipe for disaster – one that could even endanger the existence of this nation as we know it.

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