Last year, the vice-president of a leading bank, Bohra Muslim, scouted various real-estate websites after he was transferred to Mumbai from Delhi. He came across a suitable house close to his workplace, but when he got in touch with the landlord, he was denied accommodation. He said he had missed a note that read ‘accommodation offered to only Hindus’ on the web page listing.
Such notices that specify which community the prospective tenant must belong to — and even which communities are unwelcome —are not uncommon on websites.
“The man was denied accommodation at the Hindu-dominated society in DN Nagar, Andheri (West), even though he was ready to pay twice the rent for the 3-BHK flat,” said Jayant Singh, a broker with Flat Club Mumbai.
Singh added despite repeated calls to the landlord from the man’s parents, who even pleaded that he verify their son’s background, the landlord refused to budge. “Cultural values cannot be mixed, and if you continue to pester us, we will file a case against you, the owners told me,” said Singh. “Every month we see at least three such cases. As brokers, we are troubled by this discrimination. Sometimes just helping new people in the city find a home can land us in jail, let alone cost us business.”
Another broker, who puts up rent-a-flat advertisements on websites such as Quikr and OLX every day, told HT housing discrimination also exists within specific religions. While such discrimination among Hindus is largely on the basis of caste, among Muslims, it is centres around wealth, educational qualifications, and ‘outlook’.
“There are many Muslim families in places such as Yamuna Nagar, Andheri (West), and Jogeshwari (East), who have been residing there for generations. These families refuse accommodation even to people from their own religion who seem more modern,” said the broker.
Another broker, Praful Pandit, added housing discrimination works both ways. For example, in Mashyaq Building at Chincholi, Malad West, there is a preference for Muslim families, said Pandit, who once placed an advertisement specifying this on Trovit, a real-estate website. “This preference stems from the presence of a mosque in the vicinity,” he added.
Similarly, areas along the coast, from Bandra to Borivli, originally belonged to Marathi-speaking Catholics, known as East Indians. Though many sold their properties over the years, the majority that remain in Catholic hands are governed by strict rules to provide accommodation only to other East Indians and Catholics.
Broker Robert D’Silva talked about a case at Salsette CHS in Bandra, in which Hindu man was allowed to buy a flat as his wife was a Catholic. A few years later, when his wife died, he was told to vacate his apartment within a week by other families in the society.