An inclusive society means a society, which includes all cultures, communities, castes and religions. Unfortunately, even today, metro cities cannot be called inclusive societies as discrimination and inequality is still prevalent in urban areas. Sakal Times has tried to bring these stories in the city to the surface.
If we speak about our new India, a row over discrimination based on caste and religion can be witnessed. Especially, with recent incidents happening in the country, a sense of intolerance against every community and institutions seems to have aggravated. Nonetheless, in cities issues like a disagreement on inter-caste marriage and increasing ghettoisation has prevailed.
Interestingly, resistance to inter-caste marriages has been more among the educated population. “Since 2015, we have tied the knot of over 15 couples including inter-caste and inter-religion marriages. One statement has been common among all parents against the marriage is that our society does not support such a culture, which is why many well-educated parents, may appreciate the friendship and existence of other caste but refrain from extending family relations,” said Abhijit Kamble, an activist associated with Right to Love.
“Especially in inter-religion, it is more difficult to convince the parents. As parents say that they don’t have a problem with the girl or boy eloping but the partner should not be of other religion. It will defame their family status,” he said.
Is our society inclusive in this case? Sumati Unkule, a sociologist answers in a flat ‘No’. Unkule stated that more than the former generation, the present generation is struggling to affirm it. “We are living in a pre-modern identity. The caste-based and religion-based began after the 1990s when globalisation, privatisation and liberalisation came into the surface. One of the major reasons is insecurity of education and unemployment. While, if carefully noted caste and religion problems have been purposefully highlighted by the politicians to distract the public from real issues in the country,” said Unkule.
Shruti Tambe, Head of Sociology at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) in her research on ‘inclusive policies and removal of social disadvantage’ had written that in India, social exclusion or isolation was always practised. In the caste system along with material deprivations, social exclusion was imposed on the members of lower castes. This exclusion was so severe that not only was their survival at stake but also their dignity as a human being and their moral and ethical value was completely negated.
Ghettoisation of cities
The recently viral Facebook post of a popular TV actress being unable to find a home in Mumbai for the sole reason of being a Muslim has resurfaced the debate about ghettoisation and social exclusion on the basis of religion. Even in the fast developing city like Pune, we find areas and societies where individuals and families are denied to buy or rent houses on the basis of religion and we have areas like Kondhwa that are known for being Muslim-dominated regions.
“It’s the mentality that living in areas that are dominated by those in your community assures safety, is one of the important reasons behind the ghettoisation in any city. This sentiment is further seen to be strengthened and used by political parties, creating a rift between communities. History says that we have always lived together in harmony with different communities in our country. There is a need for awareness amongst people that the place of living cannot be dictated by communities,” social activist Salim Mulla explained.
Matin Mujawar, a social and educational activist, said that in the past few years, a very harmful image about the Muslim community has been created in the minds of the other. He said, “The public perceives Muslims with hatred and disgust, which is another reason for its social exclusion. Moreover, very few people in the community are literate or economically well-off. Thus, they are not able to raise their voice even if they know that they are victims of injustice.” Education will certainly bring the community a step ahead in fighting the unjust treatment, he added.
Social inclusion was always a speciality of Pune for many years, said Shamsuddin Tamboli, president, Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal, however, the expansion and event around the world have affected the perception of Muslims in the city as well. There were areas like Mominpura, Ganesh Peth, Kasba Peth that were Muslim dominated, there weren’t any problems.
“The expansion of the city gave rise to Kondhwa as the highly Muslim-dominated area. Ghettoisation here is to such an extent that we have heard of people calling this area ‘Mini Pakistan’, but the people living there do not react to it. Muslims in Kondhwa are looked at with suspicion, so do the Muslims trying to find a place anywhere else in the city. I know a student who had to adopt a fake identity in order to find a hostel to live in the centre of the city,” Tamboli said.
Inter-caste or inter-religion marriages
If an inter-caste or inter-religion marriage undergoes troubled phase like any other couple, it is mostly blamed upon the caste or religious background they come from. According to activists, the most educated have the fear of society and maintaining reputation, hence do not approve to inter-caste relations.
Accepting Muslims as a part of society
Food habits also a reason, albeit a minor one. As Muslims eat non-vegetarian food, the areas dominated by communities like Brahmins, Marwaris, Jain, etc., refuse to let them in for the sole reason of their eating habits.