“Even in Bengaluru, even today, you could find it hard to rent a flat if you have a Muslim name”

DISCRIMINATION IN HOUSING

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In the summer of 2019, we thought of renting a house within walking distance of our son’s new school. Around our home, Sarjapur road traffic was getting worse and he was getting stuck in traffic a lot. The new school was right next to a large, upscale apartment complex in the IT neighbourhood in Bellandur. Hence we considered moving there; maybe we could walk our son to school.

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In the first few days of our search, we found a flat we liked there, surprisingly, within our budget. The owner said we could move in within a month, as soon as the current tenants vacated. They lived outside the state, and practically never visited Bengaluru – at least that’s what I remember from the conversation.

Anyway, we quickly found tenants for our own home, and informed our cook, help, neighbours and friends. We figured out our house-cleaning services and the procedures for moving out and in.

When the time came to draw up the agreement, we gave our full names to my would-be landlady. It was 7-8 pm at night. The next morning, at work, I got a call from her. She was apologetic that the house wasn’t available for rent anymore since they themselves were thinking of moving in there soon. I was quite taken aback, thinking of all the things we’d have to put on hold and of having to resume the search from scratch.

I informed my husband – hard luck, we lost the apartment. He asked, did you tell them my name? I was blank for a while. Yes, of course, they’d asked me our names so as to make the rental agreement.

Aha! Now the point hit home – he has a Muslim name. The landlords wouldn’t rent their home out to a MUSLIM. I said – they should have said so earlier, would have saved us a lot of work.

Maybe we didn’t sound radicalised enough. Should have dropped some hints like ‘we will wage a Jihad against you and have some Biriyani in the evening.’ Maybe they had a problem with non-vegetarian food, but they hadn’t asked earlier. Funnily, we are practically a vegan household, but that’s off the point.

We were upset. We told our friends. They were upset too. They said, sorry for the sad situation we are facing because of Hindus. I said, I am a Hindu, I don’t feel the need to say sorry to my husband for such characters. By the way, this has happened to him earlier, that’s how he knew. He remembered and I had forgotten.

We looked for another house for some more time, but didn’t really find anything that suited our needs. We had to give complex descriptions of our religious settings to prospective owners. Husband is Muslim, not religious. Wife Hindu, also not religious. Child, religion-less. I hope you are okay with our religious beliefs or lack thereof?

One broker recommended an apartment, saying the owner was Muslim and would’ve no problem with Muslim tenants. Wow, how lucky for us!

Eventually, the moving plan was cancelled. We are happy where we are. We will cope with the notorious traffic, on our cycles. Son’s commute was reduced anyway when he moved to the new school.

Now, let this sink in. Having a Muslim name can be a disadvantage in finding a home at an upmarket residential complex in Bengaluru, in the year 2019. This is India – a secular country. If you are one of those Indians who think that religious minorities like Muslims are at home in this country, please think again.

If you are a Hindu, please try to think if you were ever refused shelter because of your faith or lack of it. To Muslims, it happens quite often. Same for Dalits and for Hindus of many castes. (My son’s friends have tried to figure out his caste and religion. Religious brainwashing of young kids would be another topic by itself). They battle this injustice in various forms – at work, at school and at what they would like to call home, and are made to think that they came from some place less holy than the soil of this country.

By the way, that apartment unit is currently rented out. I checked through friends who live in the same community.


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About Shilpi Sahu 9 Articles
Shilpi Sahu is a techie, running enthusiast, SWM advocate and an amateur artist, all rolled into one.

6 Comments

  1. I am hindu, i have a 3 bhk flat near electronic city. i would be glad to give it for rent to you with open heart and open arms 🙂 Pls feel free to contact me

  2. This happens in all Cities. In case of Muslims, its because of their food habits. In Bangalore most of the Hindus are strict vegetarians. They avoid renting out to non-vegetarians in general.

  3. But why do other minorities not get treated that way ?

    I don’t ask this in a negative tone but an academic one.

  4. I am very sorry about this. But my experience with the majority uneducated Muslims is very bitter, though it is unfair to generalise. Many of them are very aggressive with Hindus and gangup immediately against anyone who is in scrap with a Muslim. This attitude of Muslims is one big reason for their alienation with the mainstream

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