New Delhi: A residential colony in Narmada district of Gujarat “suggested” its members not sell properties to Dalits and Muslims, according to an Indian Express report. The “suggestion” was among the many made in a pamphlet of a residential colony in Vadia village of Nandod taluka and the society later claimed that these points were part of a “list of agendas” that were to be discussed at a meeting.
The pamphlet said that members must “refrain from selling properties to the Muslim and Vankar (Dalit) communities”, apart from discussing cultural events for upcoming festivals as well as charges to be levied on the sale of properties.
Members of the Dalit community met the collector to demand action against caste-based discrimination. According to the Indian Express, a person who was part of the committee which submitted the memorandum said the collector had been asked to probe the matter and “book those who are spreading hatred among communities” with such discrimination. “We are hopeful that action will be taken. These kinds of diktats keep coming now and then and shake the faith of the community in the social justice system,” he said.
The district collector, I.K. Patel, confirmed that he had received a representation. A reply had been sought from the colony, which claimed that the pamphlet was a “draft of their agenda to be discussed” at a meeting. The colony said it was not passing a rule to refuse to sell property to Dalits and Muslims, but that the list was prepared based on the “suggestions received from their resident members”. “We have accepted this reply but will keep a watch on the issue and initiate probe if discrimination happens,” Patel said, according to the Indian Express.
This claim is questionable, as the circular mentions that the points were “decisions passed by the society in its meeting, which are binding on all members”.
There have been several controversies of landlords refusing to rent properties to marginalised groups. In 2016, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing Leilani Farha said marginalised groups suffer discrimination with respect to housing. Lower castes and Muslims often have a tough time finding rental accommodation, as do widows and single women, she said.
A study in 2015 found that many upper-caste landlords were unwilling to rent their properties to Dalits or Muslims because of non-vegetarian food habits. The same study found that almost 19% of Dalits and 31% of Muslims faced exclusion when trying to rent properties. In many other cases, the landlords were willing to rent property only after imposing restrictions on the period of stay and food habits.
In comparison, upper caste Hindus rarely ever faced discrimination, according to the study. It found only one instance (in 493 cases) where an upper caste family faced a negative response when trying to rent a house.