The biggest divide perhaps today within India is the disconnect between Muslims and Hindus. Muslims are the largest minority in India and constitute around 13 percent of the country among other minorities like Christians and Sikhs. When we talk about Narendra Modi and Gujarat, the issue of Muslims is bound to arise. Muslims all over India have lived together happily over the decades with many similarities and differences. But post partition, the differences and the divide could be felt widely.
One such example is that of Juhapura in Ahmedabad, Gujarat that has been in news pretty often after 2002 riots. As per Christophe Jaffrelot’s article in the Indian Express, in 1969 the city experienced the most deadly riot in post-Partition India. Some Muslim workers left the industrial area, one of the epicentres of the violence, and migrated to Juhapura, a faraway locality where flood victims had been rehabilitated by the government a few years earlier. Such relocation to Juhapura was bound to grow because of the recurrence of violence. There have been incidents of riots in Ahmedabad particularly after Independence but the demolition of Babri Masjid somehow instigated the feelings of separation and the process of ghetto-isation started.
The area of Juhapura that was on the verge of becoming a slum received some new entrants including well to do Muslim families including Bohras, because of the fear of insecurity post 2002. The middle class Muslims and other richer ones had realised that areas like Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya are no more safe for them. This area which inhabited some 2 lakh people before 2002, now is a place with more than 4 lakh Muslims.
And living in a ghetto has its own disadvantages except the sense of security like Christophe Jaffrelot mentions that “a ghetto is defined by the absence of public facilities. Indeed, in Juhapura, the state has not developed roads, schools or public hospitals the way it has elsewhere in the state. A third variable needs to be factored in when defining a ghetto: it is insulated, not only in cultural terms but also physically.” The bus connections or other transport facilities are also disconnected from this part of the city.
This ghetto-isation is the result of both physical as well as mental barriers by the people of both communities where the minor community is largely a victim. This Juhapura is often referred to as ‘Little Pakistan’ by the local people of Ahmedabad, which again goes on to show the perception of the majority community. This ghetto-isation in Juhapura has swelled up since then, instead of narrowing down. The affluent Muslims who had thought they will go back to the main city after sometime realised that now Juhapura is their world. And this section here started to work for their development without the support of the state.
Juhapura did not have basic amenities like proper water and electricity, schools and hospitals like the rest of the city, but it has started to regain these facilities on its own. Schools and hospitals are being built by the rich Muslims, new apartments are coming up but at a price that the poor cannot afford to pay for education of their kids, healthcare or for their homes.
The prices have gone up because the expansion of Juhapura has been restricted to a limited area not only by the huge walls but by the near-by Hindu colonies. Juhapura is emerging to be a city within a city. According to the writer of the article, a full-fledged Muslim city is in the making. It has a critical mass that minimises Hindu influence and reinforces the traditional sense of self-segregation that minorities tend to develop. Juhapura may become the first new “Muslim city” of India.
While Narendra Modi displays and praises his own Gujarat growth model everywhere, he forgets to mention this place where this minority community is almost living on its own. A place where the people are trying to develop but the connecting roads are still not pucca, where the people always live in fear and isolation. This visible divide and disconnect between the two communities has been increasing every day, while the common people and politicians across the country are busy in their own lives unaware of the implications it can have in near future.
Even in the absence of the state, this place is trying everything to remain abreast with the rest of the country in its own way, struggling and facing problems in their daily lives.