Vadodara: While refusing to take cognisance of a PIL on report on protests against a Muslim woman allocated a flat under the CM housing scheme, CJI Agarwal stated that the petitioner has a right to petition the court

The Indian Express had reported how 33 residents of a housing complex in Vadodara had objected to a Muslim woman moving in, citing possible ‘threat and nuisance’ due to her presence.
Image: The Indian Express

While refusing to take cognisance of a public interest litigation (PIL) over the issue of Vadodara residents protesting the allotment of a flat in the low-income group housing complex at Harni to a 44 year-old Muslim woman, under the Mukhyamantri Awas Yojana in 2017, Chief Justice Agarwal, however, responded, “She can file her own petition, she is competent, let her come, we will pass orders…if possession is not given after allotment, she can come, let her file her own petition. We are not sensitising every issue…A person whose right is being violated, she has remedy, she should come…it is not a public interest matter.”

This is after an Indian Express Report highlighting the violation of rights. It was the Gujarat High Court Advocates Association president advocate Brijesh Trivedi mentioned the report before the court of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Pranav Trivedi and requested the court to take suo motu cognisance, which the court refused. While relying on the report, Trivedi said, “Now the authorities of (Vadodara) municipal corporation is saying that this can only be decided by court, we (VMC) will not interfere.”

The Indian Express report had showcased how 33 residents of a housing complex comprising 462 units had sent a written complaint to the Vadodara district collector and other authorities, objecting to a ‘Muslim’ moving in, citing possible “threat and nuisance” due to her presence. Calling it a “representation in public interest”, 33 signatories in the ‘complaint’ submitted to the district collector, mayor, Vadodara municipal commissioner and police commissioner have demanded that the dwelling unit allotted to the beneficiary be “invalidated” and the beneficiary be “shifted to another housing scheme”. This is unfortunately symptomatic of the ghettoised nature of our cities and neighbourhoods.

Speaking to the newspaper, The Indian Express,  the 44 year old mother has stated that the protests first began in 2020 when the residents wrote to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), seeking her house allotment to be invalidated. She is employed with an arm of the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Skill Development was allotted a dwelling unit in the Vadodara Municipal Corporation’s (VMC) low-income group housing complex at Harni under the Mukhyamantri Awas Yojana in 2017.

When she heard the news she rejoiced at the prospect of moving with her then-minor son into an inclusive neighbourhood. However, even before she could move in, 33 residents of the housing complex comprising 462 units sent a written complaint to the District Collector and other authorities, objecting to a ‘Muslim’ moving in, citing possible “threat and nuisance” due to her presence. She is the only Muslim allottee in the complex, according to officials.

The newspaper also reported that the Vadodara Municipal Commissioner Dilip Rana was unavailable for a comment to The Indian Express. Deputy Municipal Commissioner Arpit Sagar and Executive Engineer for Affordable Housing Nileshkumar Parmar refused to comment on the issue.  Thereafter it is reported that Harni police station had then recorded statements of all the parties concerned and closed the complaint. The recent protest against the same issue took place some days back, June 10.

Speaking to the Indian Express, the woman said, “I have grown up in a mixed neighbourhood in Vadodara and my family never believed in the concept of ghettos… I always wanted my son to grow up in an inclusive neighbourhood but my dreams have been shattered as it has been almost six years and there is no solution to the opposition I am facing. My son is now in Class 12 and old enough to understand what is going on. The discrimination will affect him mentally….”

Tragically, residents of the colony cite “imminent law-and-order crisis” if Muslim families are allowed to move in. One of the signatories said: “It is the fault of the VMC that they have not cross-checked the credentials of the allottee…It is the general consensus that all of us have booked homes in this colony because it is a Hindu neighbourhood and we would not like persons from other religious and cultural backgrounds to live in our colony. It is for the comfort of both parties…”

Incidentally, the woman currently lives with her parents and son in another area of Vadodara. “I do not wish to sell off my hard-earned property just because of this opposition. I will wait… I have repeatedly tried to seek time with the managing committee of the colony but they do not respond. Just two days before they went public with their latest opposition, they called me asking for the maintenance dues. I said I am willing to pay the same if they provide me with the share certificate as a resident that they have not handed over to me. The VMC had already collected Rs 50,000 as a one-time maintenance charge from all residents, which I have already paid. I am not sure if I can take legal recourse at the moment because the government has not denied me the right to live in the housing colony.”

Indian Express also reported how, another resident of the colony, however, expressed solidarity with the beneficiary. “It is unfair because she is a beneficiary of a government scheme and has been allotted the flat as per the legal provisions… The concerns of the residents could be valid but we are judging people without even interacting with them.”

OBottom of Form0fficials of the VMC’s housing department told the newspaper that since government schemes did not segregate applicants and beneficiaries on the basis of religion, the housing draw was conducted as per the norms. “It is a matter that must be resolved by both parties or by approaching competent courts,” said an official.



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