Most of us would admit to having faced difficulties and even discrimination while looking for a place to live in a new city.
From refusing single women to imposing ludicrous rules on bachelors, the struggle has been real in almost every city in India and more often than not, we have wished for a hassle-free housing system for individuals which rules out nosy landlords and pesky neighbours who inquire about one’s caste and eating preferences before considering them as potential tenants.
But four doctors, Aftab Alam, Mojtaba Hassan, Nasir Shaikh and Sawkat Shaikh, who have been staying at a rented house in the Kudghat area of Kolkata for the last two months, did not just face social discrimination but also had to undergo religious profiling.
After being refused by many landlords and house-owners for being Muslims, they finally chanced upon a kindred soul who didn’t have any issues with their faith.
However, the disposition of the neighbours was not as inclusive or welcoming. In fact, they made their displeasure extremely clear right from the start and even tried dissuading the landlord from renting out the property to the doctors.
However, when one of their friends paid a visit to their apartment last week, all hell broke loose.
“Our landlord did not have any problem with us but, right from the beginning, some of our neighbours created a hostile situation. Things worsened last Monday when a friend came to visit us. He was heckled by some neighbours who asked him to show his ‘identity proof.’ One of the neighbours—a middle-aged man—has asked us to find accommodation elsewhere as we are Muslims,” said Dr Alam to The Times of India.
While the hostile environment was still bearable, it was this incident that was the proverbial last straw for the doctors—prompting them to speak about it and even narrate the entire ordeal on social media.
The young doctors had had enough and were almost ready to move out when help and unexpected support came from the local Durga Puja committee and a non-profit organisation named Sangati Abijaan. Apparently, someone had alerted the organisation, and its members rushed to the doctors’ relief and rescue.
“This is not the first time that we have come across such a situation. In Kolkata too, many deny renting out houses to Muslims. But, this time around, when we talked to the locals regarding this issue, they were more than willing to support these young boys,” Dwaipayan Banerjee, the founder of Sangati Abijaan, said to eNewsroom, a local online news portal.
What had been even more heartening is that many members of the committee vociferously lent their support to the doctors, and convinced them against moving out. In fact, the objecting neighbours never expected such a reaction from many prominent members in the society and were quick to mend their ways.
According to Bhaskar Majumdar, a schoolteacher and a resident of Kudghat, the locals have now pledged to support the doctors and claim that no tenant would hereafter be targeted in their area on account of religious discrimination.
In a country that has been known for its secular fabric and communal harmony for centuries, it is sad that people continue to be discriminated on account of their faith. However, what makes this incident a lesson for all of us is that we can defeat communal discord if we stand together against the oppressors.
As it has been preached time and again, ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)