“There is no problem to live in residential societies, It is difficult to live with our Bahujan Culture”

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We live in a rented house. And sometimes there are problems with it. Especially when leaving one house and looking for another house. Sumit Chauhan and Azra Praveen Said. Sumit, a journalist by profession, comes from a Dalit background and Azra is a Muslim. Because of this, the problems of both increase more.

Sumit says, ‘My name is Sumit Chauhan. The Chauhan surname is written by many communities. In such a situation, many times while we looking for a house, landlord want to know about my caste, but they do not ask directly. I understand that they want to know the caste, so I also turn them around. Then, exhausted, they directly ask the caste. After knowing the caste, the attitude of the person talking changes.

Sumit and Azra living in a residential society in Greater Noida, near to Delhi. When people like Sumit and Azra reach high-rise buildings, long-haul vehicles and people working in multi-national companies, there is a stir. Progressiveness of people who consider themselves to be progressive is lost in an instant when someone Sumit Chauhan or someone Azra Praveen is standing in front of them to ask for their house on rent.

Sumit says, “In 2018 we were looking for a house on rent. Then we had to face many problems. Sometimes because of caste, sometimes because of religion, we were not able to get a house, so we were very upset, at that time. We were looking for a house in Noida at a good location. We could have given all the money that others would have given. Here you have to find a house through a broker. One house is final. But suddenly we were refused on an excuse. Later the broker told that the house owner had a problem with our caste and religion.

Azra says that my experience is that people in cities ask more questions about caste and religion. On many occasions when they do not understand caste by surname, they even ask directly. I have realized that he does not hesitate.

Sumit adds, “My experience is that despite coming to cities and living in big buildings, people’s perception of caste has not changed. People are racist. They make a difference by caste, religion and your family background. You will also see that the big buildings owners in the cities maximum belong to the upper caste people. Dalit-Bahujans have reached there in very small numbers.

This experience is not just for Sumit and Azra. Rather, Dalits who have been able to reach the larger NCR community, and with their own ethnic identity, are made to feel isolated on many occasions. Or they are told untold, discrimination is done.

Sarvind, who is a geoscientist in ONGC and gets a handsom amount of salary, his experience has also not been normal. After living in two societies, he has now bought his own flat. But their experiences have been more or less the same everywhere.

Sarvind, who had come to Delhi posting from Assam in 2015, says, My office was in Noida, so I thought of shift here. I took a house on rent at Prateek Wisteria in Noida Sector 77-78. The rent was very high. But the religious pomp present there was shocking. After some time, the landlord had to sell the house; we had to leave from there.

 After this, sarvind took a flat on rent in Supertech Society in Sector 78 in 2017-2018. There was a temple built inside the society. There was a lot of noise all the time. All religious events were held there in full swing. I once proposed that when many events are organized in the society, then the birthday of Babasaheb Ambedkar, the architect of the constitution and other such great personalities should also be celebrated.

I clearly felt that he had become uncomfortable. He said at that time, it was okay to avoid it, but later he did not show any interest on my proposal. It was clear that he rejected the proposal to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti.

Later I thought of getting my own house. I saw 30-40 societies in NCR. We have bought a flat in Exotica Dream Village in Noida Extension. Its owner was Jain. I do not believe in religious pomp. There was no temple anywhere on the map of that society, so I liked it.

When we started living here, after few days, 15-20 people brought a stone from outside the society shouting Jai Shri Ram. Guards to the society staff was opposed, but they did not agree. He was kept in a public place. Now it has been made a temple. Me and my wife Munni Bharti, who is an assistant professor at a college in Delhi University, protested that when people of all religions make their own symbols, where will people sit and walk. Then I proposed to these people to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti and Phule Jayanti in the month of April. But the president of the society did not show any interest in this.

After this confrontation, our identity was revealed. People started moving away from us. People who used to meet warmly in the morning and evening walk, he started running away.

There are two things in this. As soon as you talk differently, people find out whether you live on rent or have your own house. When they come to know that you are the flat owner, then they cannot do much.

So what is the reaction of the society, when people with dalit and tribal identities go there to live, are they accepted them? I asked to Sarvind. He says that people with Dalit-Adivasi identity do not accept by them.

He adds that, it is not that Dalits do not live in the society. Now some people have started living but they are not coming out with their identity. My identity came to the fore when I raised a question about to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti or a temple built illegally. But no one came with us. I believe that the day the Dalits come out with their own identity, the clash in the society will increase. There is no problem living there. It is difficult to live with our culture after buying a flat.

(This article has been written under ICDR Fellowship)

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