Sectarian tensions between Hindus and Muslims — always bubbling under the surface of India's chaotic and teeming urban streets and which frequently explode into deadly violence – appear to be rising in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state. According to a report in The Hindu newspaper, Muslims in the city – complaining of increasing discrimination and official neglect in a state ruled by controversial Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – are gradually concentrating in “ghettoes” along the perimeter of the huge and diverse city. In previous years, Muslims lived in various neighborhoods across the city.
One such “Islamic quarter” Juhapur (believed to be the largest Muslim “ghetto” in all of Asia) is crowded with at least 400,000 Muslims. Prior to the communal riots that swept parts of Gujarat in 2002, Juhapur, on the western end of Ahmedabad, only had a population of about 250,000. “Most [Muslim] ghettos have come up on the fringes of the city, away from the Hindu mainstream and lacking in basic amenities,” said an op-ed in The Hindu paper. “[These ghettoes] present a picture of filth, slush and puddles of dirty water. They swarm with flies and mosquitoes. There are no sewerage lines. A foul smell permeates the air. There is no water supply, and whatever is drawn is not always [drinkable].”
Just adjacent to the Muslim enclave of Sajid Row Houses is a clean, affluent Hindu neighborhood called “Dharmabhoomi Society” with all social services available. Muslims blame the BJP-controlled Ahmedabad Municipal Corp. (AMC) for the sharp contrast in living conditions and services between the two neighborhoods. “What more can explain the reality than the fact that ours is a Muslim [neighborhood] and theirs is not?” said Subedar Shaikh, a retired railway employee and resident of Sajid Row. But BJP characterizes complexes like Sajid Row as “illegal Muslim colonies.”
Written By: Palash Ghosh
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