Cities are built by people, and like people, cities tell stories. Across India’s urban landscape, in places like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Jaipur and even in cities where Muslims make a substantial portion of the population (around 20%) like Hyderabad and Aligarh, members of the community are confined to religiously segregated and systematically marginalised ghettos or enclaves.
The story of this physical demarcation between largely upper-caste Hindu areas and Muslim mohallas–which in some places accommodate people from the OBC and Dalit communities too–represents the deep cleavages that mould the society into the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.
While one might argue that Muslims, like everyone else, have the freedom to choose their place of residence, evidence has repeatedly pointed to the contrary. Their decision to live in certain neighbourhoods is not as much made as it is imposed by a combination of discriminatory real estate practices and fear of communal violence. Several accounts of having been denied housing rights due to being Muslim, especially in India’s most important metropolitan cities, have surfaced at an unprecedented rate in the last decade, and even traversed class boundaries. But, the threat of violence is a bigger factor.