The Urban Khap: How Housing Societies Practice Discrimination As A Way Of Life

On the occasion of Women’s Day, I want to draw attention to a different kind of freedom that is being denied to us by a toxic culture propagated in housing societies.

The freedom to live with dignity.

Angela Merkel once said, “When it comes to human dignity, we cannot make compromises.” And it is true, when we compromise on the dignity that we deserve, we allow toxic mentalities to take over. Quite like how my housing society committee has been doing.

No guests after 10, comply or suffer the consequences. Moral policing and infringement of privacy is a rule here.

Panch leela- Mahal Housing Co-op, in Mumbai, has been brazenly practicing discrimination, harassment, breach of privacy and right for free movement against its tenants. These rules, applicable only for tenants, include:

  • No guests after 10 pm
  • Removal of guests from the society premises after 10 pm
  • Mandatory submission of letter as well as govt ID proof in advance, to seek permission for having guests stay over if even for the night. A practice that is discouraged by the government itself, lest your details fall in the wrong hands.
  • Heavy penalties at the society’s discretion on anyone who breaks the rules, individual lease holder wise. Which means if my friends come over, penalties will be charged not on me but also my flatmates per head! Amount to be payed – minimum of 3000 each.

Said rules are clearly to extort from and restrict a group of residents/members based on personal beliefs and a skewed sense of control, shrouded as a move for better safety of members in ownership. But the safety of one set of people cannot be justified by the (discriminatory) mistreatment and arbitrary restriction of another.

I would like to tell you here that no, I do not live in a hostel or PG. In-fact I pay an upward of INR 45000 in rent for a certain quality of life. However, the committee members of our society are running a culture of bullying that has given way to all kind of misbehavior, disrespect and moral policing from the likes of even our security guards. The group of people who are supposed to look after the safety of ‘every’ resident in the society premises have been given such a long rope that they can get away with outright harassment, lewd behavior towards women, wrongful interrogation of our guests and downright bullying.

Many of us have gone through mistreatment and been called names by members of the committee just because we are (especially bachelor) tenants. We are inherent criminals, our guests too are possibly vandals or some form of antisocial elements. It’s ironic isn’t it!? While the world is full of domestic violence, murder, rape, theft, social evils, ‘we’ are the biggest threat to society. Suddenly, being a tenant, especially if we happen to be bachelors, is nothing short of being a second-class citizen. And all of this is done holding a gun on our head – all such rules have been passed by the consent of majority committee members and failure to comply can result in forced eviction. In short, toe the line or we will put pressure on your landlord to throw you out. No matter how supportive your landlord may be, they will threaten and use scare tactics to contain them too.

I ask all the readers today, is this why we study, work hard and dream to make something of ourselves? Just to come to another city to be bullied into submission by a group of goons and anarchists? In a country with one of the largest youth population of the world, is this how we have to live our lives until we “Get married or buy a house”? How come even though societies such as these are pissing on our fundamental rights as Indian citizens as well as disregarding the very law of the land, no action is ever taken against them? How come we, as tenants, take this nonsense and stay silent about it?

It infuriates and saddens me that even today, in a city like Mumbai, such toxic elements are given a free run while we pay heavy rents but still get treated like lesser humans. I am taking a stand against this brazen discrimination and calling out to each and every one of you who is suffering to raise your voice. This Women’s Day, I want to tell every woman as well as man whose dignity has been wounded by these sociopaths – stand up for yourself if you want your voice to be heard. We can complain all we want in the confines of what should have been our home, but real empowerment is to realise that we do not deserve this indignity!

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