Indian Muslims seek safety in ‘ghettos’ amid demolitions

Last year, Imaad Hassan moved from New Delhi’s posh, Hindu-dominated Sarita Vihar neighborhood to Abul Fazal Enclave – a Muslim-majority area that has long struggled with poor access to water and electricity.

“I moved from a closed society to a ghetto for my own safety,” he says.

Why we wrote this

What makes a room safe for Indian Muslims? Amid escalating violence and recent demolitions, many are seeking safety in Delhi’s predominantly Muslim enclaves. But ghettoization comes with risks.

Since the right-wing Bharatiya Janata party came to power, there have been increasing reports of hate crimes against religious minorities. In recent months, authorities have bulldozed Muslim homes, mosques and shops, often under the guise of anti-burglary campaigns.

The normalization of Hindu nationalism and anti-Muslim violence has led many Delhi residents to seek refuge in the city’s Muslim enclaves, which are widely stigmatized as lawless or unclean, but provide a relatively safe space to express their religious identity. express. Although the government today does not explicitly force Muslims to live in these areas, they are commonly referred to as “ghettos” because of the challenges the residents face and the pressure Muslims experience to settle there.

But Nazima Parveen, author of “Contested Homelands: Politics of Space and Identity,” worries that in the long run, this segregation will only help Hindu nationalism grow. “Hindus will also be unwilling to live in areas dominated by Muslims, just as Muslims look for areas dominated by their own species,” she says. “Such developments will have a very dangerous impact on the social fabric.”

New Delhi

Eight months ago, Imaad Hassan moved from New Delhi’s posh, Hindu-dominated Sarita Vihar neighborhood to Abul Fazal Enclave – a riverside area that has long struggled with poor access to water and electricity.

“I moved from a closed society to a ghetto for my own safety,” he says. “Every time the news brought events of clashes between Hindus and Muslims, my neighbors stopped responding to my greetings. Only Allah knows what would have happened if I had stayed there.”

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, there have been increasing reports of hate crimes against religious minorities. At the same time, BJP leaders have developed new laws and policies restricting interfaith marriage and Muslim immigration. And in recent months, bulldozers have become a symbol of Hindu nationalist groups as authorities raze Muslim homes, mosques and shops under the guise of anti-burglary campaigns, government campaigns that claim to demolish illegal or unauthorized buildings.

Why we wrote this

What makes a room safe for Indian Muslims? Amid escalating violence and recent demolitions, many are seeking safety in Delhi’s predominantly Muslim enclaves. But ghettoization comes with risks.

Amid all this, many Delhi residents are leaving the mixed-population areas for the city’s Muslim enclaves, which often lack basic amenities and are widely stigmatized as lawless or unclean. Experts say Hindutva — an ideology that promotes Hindu hegemony — has become so mainstream that Muslims are forced to choose between expressing their religious identity and their security.

Regarding Hindutva groups: “their constant messages” [is] this is our country,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a journalist who has written several books on Indian politics. “Muslims can stay here, but as long as they are invisible. You don’t offer namaz [prayers] on roads you don’t wear a hijab, but you are invisible.”

Locals pass by the Bilal Masjid Mosque in New Delhi’s Abul Fazal Enclave on May 30, 2022. Imaad Hassan moved to the area last year, fearing “social boycott” in his former neighborhood.

The temporary refuge offered by Muslim-majority areas comes at a price, experts warn, but Hassan says the compromises are worth it. “I don’t have to worry about being a Muslim in a ghetto,” he says. “I don’t have to worry about being socially boycotted.”