| A boy participates in a demonstration against the July 11 Mumbai blasts
Mumbai, July 27: Working with one of the country’s top news channels, Nafisa Islam thought she knew her city. But nothing in her professional experience had prepared her for the prospective landlord’s reaction.
“It was just after the train blasts. They were educated people with a nice home in Kandivli, which I really liked. But they rejected me outright as soon as they heard my name. Even my identity card didn’t convince them,” Nafisa said.
“How can we be blamed for the actions of a small fraction within our community' Now I have rented a house in Bandra that costs me double what I had in mind. But what can I do, I don’t want to be treated like that again.”
“This isn’t new. Since the 1993 blasts, people in Mumbai have been averse to renting their homes out to Muslims,” said Nasir, a broker who operates in Malad in suburban Mumbai.
“It’s very difficult for us to arrange houses on rent for Muslim clients. Even if they want to buy a property, there are problems with the builders. The situation has worsened since the train blasts and nothing we say convinces the owners now.”
When Muslims approach brokers, they are usually taken to Muslim-dominated areas such as Malvani, Mahim and Jogeshwari. Among upwardly mobile Muslims, Malad, Kandivli and Borivli seem popular choices. There are also pockets in upscale Andheri, such as Millatnagar and Yari Road, where people from the community can get houses, but they are not first choices as they are far from the Andheri railway station.
“We can’t take a risk. If anything happens, both the landlord and police look for the agents. So, I don’t take on Muslim clients without a good reference,” said Narendra, who makes it a point to check up on his clients.
The problem is worst for the hundreds of young men and women who come down to the city on their first jobs or internship.
“I wanted to rent a flat with two Hindu college friends. A broker showed us a couple of flats, but we had to stay at a friend’s house because of the blasts. Later, when we started looking again, we were refused because I was a Muslim,” said Sameera Jafri, an intern with a reputable company.
“When I said we would draw up the contract in the names of my friends, they said they still couldn’t let out the house because I would be staying with them.”
Most agents say the situation is worse than it has ever been. “No Hindu landlord in the city will entertain a Muslim tenant. They don’t consider it even if the house is to be taken on company lease,” said Rohit Gangwani who has been a broker since 1995.
“When Muslim clients approach us, they too tell us to make sure the landlord knows they are Muslims. They say, ‘We don’t want any hassles later on’. There’s no point trying to convince anyone now. Both parties have accepted the situation, and after the 7/11 blasts, it’s as bad as it could get.”