People walk by a sign reading 'hum ek hain' (we are one) in riot-hit Mustafabad in Northeast Delhi | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
People walk by a sign that says 'hum ek hain' (we are one) in riot-hit Mustafabad in Northeast Delhi | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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In light of the recent communal riots in Delhi when a few Muslim neighbourhoods were targeted by mobs, it has again become pertinent for policymakers and urban planners to look at urban residential segregation as one of the major factors that precipitates such communal violence in India.

Neighbourhood diversity, for Indian urban planners, mostly meant reserving a few low-income group plots/apartments in new housing projects. The dominant strands in Indian urbanism have not studied caste or religion as a significant factor influencing the politics of space making.


Also read: Left and liberals should stop looking for the perfect victim in Delhi riots


Why neighbourhood diversity is important

Any segregation, as research on race in US cities shows, is detrimental to economic growth, societal equity and economic mobility, and leads to alienation of communities.

A study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty and others has shown that the neighbourhood where one grows up has a major impact on their lifetime earnings and success later in life. The research found that less residential segregation results in upward social and economic mobility. Residential segregation aggravates existing socio-economic inequality. Children growing up in highly segregated and poor neighbourhoods are more susceptible to failure and are emotionally vulnerable.

There is enough empirical evidence to suggest that neighbourhoods with more diversity have lower crime rates, when compared to homogeneous neighbourhoods.

Segregation also results in ghettoisation of minority and poor groups, and this aspect of stratification spills over to next generations. In times of communal violence, it becomes easy to target individuals of a particular group or community — as it happened in Delhi recently.

The Los Angeles riots of 1992, for example, were also a result of highly segregated residential neighbourhoods with “unequal social and political endowments and economic niches”, as shown by a study conducted by the Rand Corporation.

Various studies have shown that people living in heterogeneous neighbourhoods are less discriminatory towards people belonging to other races and ethnic groups.  If you live in segregated neighbourhoods, it is easy to demonise the ‘other’ — which often happens to Muslims in India.


Also read: Not a single Dalit in 60% of Kolkata’s neighbourhoods. How caste divides Indian cities


Residential segregation in Delhi

Previous research, by one of us, along with Deepak Malghan and Andaleeb Rahman showed that many Indian cities are segregated along caste lines. Our research found that at least 30 per cent of Delhi’s neighbourhoods (Census enumeration blocks) did not have any Dalits. 

Since the Census of India doesn’t make enumeration block-level data of religions public, it becomes difficult to study residential segregation along religious lines.

Researchers like Raphael Susewind have tried to overcome this lack of data by using polling booth-level data to study residential segregation of Muslims in Indian cities.

In his research study titled ‘Muslims in Indian cities: Degrees of segregation and the elusive ghetto’, Susewind uses a probabilistic algorithm to deduce the religion of the person in the voter list. The findings show that Delhi and Ahmedabad are the most segregated cities for Muslims while Jaipur, Kozhikode and Lucknow are the least segregated.

Lucknow and Jaipur have not experienced communal riots in the past many decades. As scholar Ashutosh Varshney notes, Lucknow’s only major communal riot took place in 1924, and there were no communal riots during India’s partition in 1947, or even during heightened tensions after the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition. According to him, the economic integration of Muslims and Hindus in the city is the major reason for the absence of communal riots.

Whether economic integration leads to diverse neighbourhoods or diverse neighbourhoods result in economic integration of communities requires further research.

Another study by Kashif-ul-Huda and Kamrun Nehar looked at the membership records of all housing societies (around 2,000 societies) registered in New Delhi in 2012. They identified Muslim names from the membership records and calculated the percentage of Muslims in each housing society.

Source: Research study by Kashif-ul-Huda and Kamrun Nehar

Almost 70 per cent of housing societies (1,345 out of 2,000) did not have Muslim members at all. Around 96 per cent of societies had less than ten per cent of Muslims. If one looks at the number of Muslim housing society members, then 58.8 per cent of them are associated with societies that have more than 90 per cent Muslims as members.

This means that 31 societies account for 59 per cent of Muslims in housing societies. This data pertains only to registered societies, and the situation is starker in unregistered housing colonies and settlements. While this might not be very surprising to many of us, the extent of segregation this data demonstrates is quite stark.


Also read: Why Jungle Raj Bihar kept out communal riots for 3 decades but Delhi and Gujarat couldn’t


Discrimination against Muslims by real estate agents

There may be many reasons for segregation of Muslims in Indian cities. One major aspect is the discrimination they face in urban real estate markets. A study by Sukhadeo Thorat and others on the rental housing market in five metropolitan areas of the National Capital Region of Delhi recorded the discrimination that Dalits and Muslims face while renting a house.

Almost 60 per cent of the Muslim home seekers received negative responses from landlords compared to 40 per cent for Dalit home seekers and only 3 per cent for upper-caste Hindus.

In 2013, news website TwoCircles.net found out about discriminatory ads posted on real estate website 99acres.com. A search on their website revealed 88 past and active ads with the term “only Muslims” in them. However, search for “no Muslims” resulted in 774 hits. There were 1,470 ads when one searched for “only Hindu” on the same website. The website led a campaign that forced 99acres to commit to removing the discriminatory ads and putting filters for future ads.


Also read: Rumour has it that riots are breaking out in your neighbourhood. What would you do?


Riots and residential segregation

Another major reason for segregation of Muslims in Indian cities is communal riots. Successive communal riots have alienated Muslims and they have been forced to move into Muslim majority neighbourhoods seeking safety.

In early 20th century Europe, Jews lived in ghettos for safety reasons. These ghettoes became easy targets during the Nazi occupation of Europe. In Ahmedabad, successive communal riots have forced Muslims to move into the old city and live in ghettos.

Communal riots drive residential segregation, and residential segregation helps in inciting violence against minority groups. Now, the images of Muslims moving out of riot-hit areas of Delhi to safer neighbourhoods are fresh in our minds.


Also read: Are communal riots a new thing in India? Yes, and it started with the British


The road ahead

Many countries have strict laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, familial status, disability and sex while renting or buying a home.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Federal Fair Housing Act Amendments Act of 1988 in the US were major steps taken by the government to reduce segregation in US cities based on race.

The time is ripe in India for such laws to be enacted to outlaw any discrimination in real estate markets based on caste and religion to break the vicious cycle of residential segregation and communal riots.

Naveen is a Fellow at Harvard University. Kashif is an independent researcher based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Views are personal.

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14 Comments Share Your Views

14 COMMENTS

  1. Lucknow though abides much like it is dwoicted in the article, it’d be wrong to say it does not know of riots, or has mostly forgotten – the ones back ib the day now irrelevant to the new generations : it has had a very turbulent peace in the times when riots didn’t effect and irrespective – there’s always an entrenched anxiety as surfaces on aspects, civilians and authorities alike. In the recent past, though even such animosities have eschewed wanton violence as used to be the norm.
    On select days every year, it’s normal to decry heavy trucks entering the city with added battalions of constabukary, riot vehicles doing the round and of recent, drone cameras scruitinizing masses from above.
    Hindu and Muslims have had relations unlike such in other cities, but Lucknow unlike Delgi or Ahmedabad has a very distinctive Shia pedigree which, is quite unique in India.
    In the recent evacuation hassles, there were around 300 students stranded in Iran – all from Lucknow. Their parents mailed Modi’s office pleading for help and all 300 were back in 3 days, unharmed. All shia from one city.
    Muharram is when the authorities take over in full force – the routes where the processions would be at, if not, alternate ways to fo ahead or corral the devotees to be whisked away in heavy security, and the religious Sunni clergy are out to intercede ar any hint of mischief.
    Still mosr processions pass through alleys in old city with dense populations and all Sunni residents. So, stoning happens, and worda are exchanged but as i said, not the kind of mayhem as was the norm happens any longer.
    Before the partition it was way worse and the Viceroy of India had ro personally intervene in quite a few occasions when it felt that the Shias might not survive Lucknow.
    After partition, there were no British but the Hindu population was much more potent than it was ever before : Nawabs of Oudh had taken them along and they had too, never felt danger being Hindus.
    As it happened, anything untoward transpired and Hindus would reach the police before the Shias could, which in time led to another inexplicable change – which was the increasing apathy amongst Sunnis to attaxk their Shia neighbors just because someplace Iran and KSA were at loggerheads.

  2. I think we can experiment Singapore model where I am told, Housing Societies allot houses to different communities to ensure all religious groups stay in ONE society and area.

  3. In Jammu & kashmir were non muslims are less than 30% ,but being in majority we not rape their daughters ,kill innocent kids ,set fire their houses.they are equal have rights to live peacefully like all.

    • You guys were doing it from 1946 to 1999 when all.hindus and pandits left the valley…imagine hindu migration in hindu dominated countey. BJP has set the record straight. Why muslims are problem in thailand, Myanmar, China , USA and whole of world…do a fact finding check. Why have.majority of european countries banned head scarf and construction of mosques….why dont gulf countries absorb syrian and afghan refugees…muslim helping muslim instead of muslim begging infront of christian europe. Shame. This paper is anti hindu….

  4. There are good things about this article, but it begins with sheer unreason in speaking of “the recent communal riots in Delhi when a few Muslim neighbourhoods were targeted by mobs”. Do the authors not understand something which has been said by so many, that targetted violence cannot be described as a riot?

  5. This is nothing but Hindu bashing. Muslims cannot assimilate or integrate in any society. They invariably have contempt for the law of the land and accept Sharia. In these circumstances, please do not blame the majority community which is by and large tolerant of the Muslims.

  6. Delhi has also been a very peaceful city for the Muslims as Jaipur and other many peaceful countries. But in the past decade the population of minority Muslims increased as a part of their very common known strategy for occupying the areas. Then challenge the peaceful majority and police, block the roads by mass namaz , attack on Hindus, abuse them , throw stones on police , teasing Hindu girls, and even murdering their parent, Muslim biker gangs attacking the peaceful majority and police, these common programs were continue after they reached to 23% of population. This same happened in Ahmedabad. And make the thing more worse they regularly attacked Hindu temples and religious procession such as rathyatra and Ganesh utsav. And targeting the Hindu or christian girls is also a well-known practice of such radical Islamic jehadis. This same modusoprendy was used in one of the most peaceful country Myanmar. Anywhere in the world when Muslims are 2 to 15 %they remain peaceful or they pretend to be like that. Suddenly when they became more than 20% they start to settle in selected area for their dominance where they even challenge the police and government. Start attacking and targeting the majority Hindu peaceful people. Well these are the very common glimpse of the common jehadi programs. Which is the route cause of riots. And every time the majority suffers the police and government suffers who never want any more tensions like riots .it was started after the CAA decision. It has nothing to do with any regular citizen of any religion but only to give the shelter to the millions of Hindu refugees who reached here in the only one country of Hindus. Already about 50 millions of Hindus were killed by enormous horrible mascre and rapes in the neighboring countries Pakistan Bangladesh and Afghanistan which were the part of Hindustan or India. Remaining most were converted to Islam to save their families and women. This happened every where in the world to make 56 Islamic countries. And these terrorist jehadi Muslims always blame other religion whose people are the real victims. They always blame Israel for Palestinian crisis but do they ever welcomed Jews on their own motherland? They want to spread in America and Europe and entire world but always protesting the very small minority of jews in their own tiny mother land.these are the main reasons of the clashes with Muslim minorities anywhere in the world no matter Delhi or Gujarat or Myanmar, Bosnia,Palestinian. Always the majority people and the government and police is attacked and always the anti government anti bjp anti Hindu propogandist come to save the hideous crimes of minority and put blame on majority. Actually these above articles are the part of the common fake propaganda run by such sleeper cells and the world and peaceful majority and police should be aware of this.

  7. COuld be true that some areas in the country see little communal tension , but there could be many reasons for this. But the stark fact is that even such “peaceful” areas are today crumbling under the onslaught of aggressive HIndutva and constant on line barrages from ISIS and its cohorts. What held good ten years ago, may change in front of our eyes now, unless Governments play a firm hand.

  8. This is an excellent study and it provides information that can help creative policy makers make our cities more stable and peaceful.

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