Sunday 21st Dec 2014
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The World is Too Big, Emraan Hashmi!

Religious Discrimination

, by SOROOR AHMED

Emraan Hashmi is not the first actor to be denied house in a posh Pali Hill residential area of Mumbai on the ground that he is a Muslim. Sometimes back the duo of Shabana Azmi and Jawaid Akhtar faced the same situation. Director Mahesh Bhatt was appalled that this has happened in that part of the commercial capital of India – and that too in the 21st century – where likes of Sunil Dutt and Nargis had spent their lives and Dilip Kumar and Saira Bano are still living. These two incidents are enough to answer the question raised by many in India: Why Muslims love to live in ghettoes?
If this can happen in the localities of the educated and so-called tolerant upper class of the society the less said is better for those living elsewhere in the country. But is it not a myth that the educated upper and middle classes are above religious, caste and racial bias? In fact many of them are more prejudiced than the humble and illiterate workers residing in the interiors of India. Not to speak of religion, housing societies are divided on caste and other lines too. Even in the most developed country of the world, United States, which boasts of being the champion of liberalism, Whites and Blacks often prefer to live in separate housing colonies. In spite of the so-called broadmindedness Blacks are treated like pariahs. Often a White shifts from his house after a Black comes to live in the vicinity.
Such discrimination on the ground of religion, caste or colour is no doubt wrong and condemnable, yet one has to live with it in this divided world. But what is more intriguing is the response of Emraan Hashmi today and Shabana Azmi in the past. Why do they insist on living in that particular posh locality having exclusive upper class Hindu population? Is there not any small plot left anywhere else in the commercial capital of India for Emraan? What Emraan needs to understand is that he would hardly find any Dalit in such housing societies though they too are human beings as well as Hindus.
Why is it that Emraan Hashmi is raking up the issue when it comes to him? Men and women like him do not find any fault with the same Hindu-dominated society when it comes to making films or doing other works or even getting married. They go to town with their complaints when they face some unpleasant situation in the society. Why should an average citizens of the country feel bothered about this cosmetic problem of Emraan when they face such challenges almost daily? In Mumbai, and in many other cities of India, there are posh housing societies of Muslims or those having mixed population. If Emraan is not getting any house in Pali Hill he should simply move to these places rather than create a scene in the media.
Living for example in Millat Colony of Mumbai or Zakir Bagh in New Delhi does not amount to living in a ghetto nor will it reduce his stature. Why is it that the celebrities want to flee from reality and then try to make big news by their activities. Emraan or Shabana seem to be disturbed over the polarisation in the country as now their personal rather than community identity is being questioned. Not getting a flat, house or a plot of land in any particular area dominated by elite of the country is no big news when compared to continuous torture and harassment felt by common people – Muslims, Backwards, Dalits and other downtrodden sections of society.
Emraan needs to be reminded that today he, or Salman, Amir, Shahrukh etc, are at least using their Muslim names in the film world and nobody is objecting to it. In just post-independence India, that is, before this generation of actors and actresses were born, Yusuf Khan – to give just one example – had to change his name to Dilip Kumar to work in Bollywood. His personal commitment to his motherland and secularism is well-known. Notwithstanding the fact that he was born in Peshawar he opted to live in Mumbai after the partition of the sub-continent. In spite of this he was labelled a Pakistani and harassed by police and intelligence. He had to hid himself as he was haunted by them. Dilip Kumar then tried to personally meet the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru – and that too in a gathering. This happened in early 1960s at the peak of his career. However, even this effort of calling on Nehru did not yield any positive result.
Dilip Kumar was no spoilt brat like Sanjay Dutt. He was an established and respected film star and citizen. Yet Yusuf Bhai’s case was worse than that of Emraan. So instead of shedding tears over what is now considered a non-issue in our society he must take a home somewhere in Mumbai and spend his life peacefully. Or if he really wants to champion the cause of secularism and sound a bit idealist he must start a crusade for a larger cause of restoring the dignity of countless Indians of this largest, the most cosmopolitan city and economic capital of India.


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