Mumbra: A notice in an apartment in Mumbra says, Members of Shiv Darhan Apartments request the citizens of Mumbra that only vegetarians live in Shiv Darshan Apartments. Therefore, whoever lets out a flat on rent, for maintenance or on lease, please give to vegetarians only. Thank you.”
This is the text on a board outside a building in Mumbra, a Muslim dominated locality in Mumbai. Ironically, the ground floor of this very building sports a Chinese restaurant and a bar-and-restaurant, which sells exclusively non-vegetarian food.
When some residents of the area were questioned about the board they said that it is not actually about vegetarianism, since all residents in the neighborhood are non-vegetarians and eat both meat and fish. The underlying reason is to keep Muslims from getting the apartments since the apartments have never been given to Muslims in the last 37 years. Neither on rent, nor on lease. When the residents were asked who had put up the board then they say that the owners of the houses should be asked. The owners pass on the question to the residents. No one is ready to own up the hand behind the erection of the notice board.
The matter came to light when a resident of second floor tried to sell off his apartment. He had bought this apartment three years ago. But he bought another apartment in Kausa, a locality close to Mumbra, and now he wanted to sell of this apartment. The locality being Muslim dominated, often Muslim buyers would come to see the apartment. And the rest of the residents of the building were having trouble with these prospective buyers, because they were Muslims.
Guru Nath Patil, a third floor resident of the same building, said, “The problem is not with non-vegetarianism but with Muslim families. Many residents in this building are non-vegetarians. Since quite a number of years now no Muslim family has ever been sold or given an apartment of this building on rent. So the residents of this building want to maintain this tradition.”
When asked about the kind of problems they face with Muslim families, he said, “Since I do not have any experience of this kind so I cannot say anything.”
On the first floor of the building lives Meera Ajay Gupta. She collects maintenance charges from the residents of the building. When contacted, her husband initially refused the existence of any such board or notice. When the existence of board was confirmed, then he replied to the question of why the board was put up, “We do not know anything. We have no problem at all. Maybe you should ask the owner of the building, Bhola Patil.”
The owner turned out to be a member of Congress and a senior social worker. He pleaded ignorance, saying, “The board must have been put up by the residents of the building. I have no idea about it. I had sold off all apartments of the building nearly 30 years ago. I just have an office in the ground floor. And one section I have rented off to the Chinese food people and from one ground floor section I run my hotel and bar. Twelve residents live in the building. What they eat and drink is none of my concern. The residents had even discouraged me from opening the Chinese food place and my hotel and bar, but I had told them that it is for the common public and not for you if you do not like it.”
He further said, “The building had been erected in 1980. I had sold off all residential apartments in the building. Now the residents live according to what the majority of the residents like. They had not been letting the flats to non-vegetarians from the beginning. I have not asked them to put up any board. The people who are creating this problem have been the residents of the place since 3-4 years only.
Deputy Commissioner of Mumbra Municipal Corporation Dr DS Swami was contacted to express himself on this matter. He said, “We will look into the matter.”
Translated from Inquilab