[Reader-list] Re: caste and the city

avinash kumar avinash at sarai.net
Tue Dec 7 15:03:39 IST 2004

Again its from a friend Aniket Alam who once lived at Gaurav 
apartments...needs a patient hearing.


NOT GAURAV Apartments!
while i agree with the fact that there is severe discrimination
against dalits in urban india and the real estate picture is merely a
component of that.... having lived in Gaurav Apartments for exactly 11
months from June 1999 to May 2000 on rent from a PUnjabi Khatri
landlord... i can say that there may also be some other reasons for
reluctance from people to buy/rent flats there. for one, gaurav
apartment's big bosses dont like non-dalits staying there.
when me and manjari saw the flat (a two bedroom one) we liked the
location of the complex but were put off by the design.... yet we
decided to rent it since we went with locational advantages and lack
of time... the fact that it was a dalit society never came up for
consideration.... if at all there was a political component to our
real estate decision it was for some other societies down the road
which seemed openly hindutva...
anyhow... our travails began even before we managed to get out
furniture inside the flat complex. the secretary and other office
bearers refused to open the society gates unless i get some letter
from JNU stating that i was a bonafide student of the university...
how that was relevant to moving my furniture in was left unsaid.... so
on an amazingly hot june afternoon off i went to JNU from patparganj
to get this elusive letter... thankfully i managed it before the
university closed down but by teh time i got back, the secretary had
gone off leaving instructions that the truck with our stuff should not
be allowed inside... anyway to cut a long story short it was close to
midnight that our truck was "allowed" to get in...
this was merely the first instance.. from gettting electricity
problems sorted out, to our watertank being vandalised, to the daily
unfriendly, unwelcome behaviour of the gaurav apartments big bosses
and dalit members, it became clear that they were not keen that some
non-dalit should live there.... and i am saying this on the basis of
11 months of living there. in every way they could, life was made
difficult for us...
now i am sure there would be worthies out there who would say that we
experienced for those 11 months what dalits have experienced for
3/4/5000 years... etc etc..... maybe that is what needs to be done....
but i feel that its a bit misplaced to take out one's anger on those
very people who, however imperfectly perhaps, try and break out of our
societies discriminations. and while i can agree that my forefathers
would have been patriarchal, feudal, , heavy handed oppressors of the
poor and the marginalised, what can i, aniket alam, do about that
other than live my life in a moral and democratic way. and stand up in
support of struggles for emancipation.
and in the context of the comment made by shivam vij on the
news-story... Gaurav apartments are full of precisely those dalits who
have got govt jobs through reservations....  and in a area where
apartment societies regularly over-work and mistreat the security
personnel who guard their middle class dreams, gaurav apartments also
takes the cake in that ill behaviour towards its service staff... if
you dont believe me go and make friends with Astik Singh at the
security gate (if he still has not found a new job) and soon enough he
will tell you what it is to work in/for Gaurav Apartments...
the long and short of my verbose reply is that the point made in the
news-story is correct... there is a severe and, unlike in the rural
areas, hidden discrimination against dalits in urban india but there
are two caveats....
1. reservations are needed and must be extended to the private sector
too... but we must all, dalits and non-dalits alike, realise that
reservations have not served half the purpose they were supposed to
... it has led to the creation of a self-serving, petty minded and
politically reactionary upwardly mobile section among the dalits... it
has not been the trigger for the community to break its shakles.....
2. it doesn't serve to adopt such a shrill pitch as the writer of the
comment preceeding the news-story does.... every particular instance
when something bad happens to a dalit is not necessarily due to
anti-dalit discrimination... it may be caused by any number of
reasons... lumping everything on the dalit identity is bogus and
politically short-sighted.
let me add some more trivia regarding gaurav apartments... its an
apartment society formed by dalit govt. officials who have done
reasonably well for themselves... so much so that when plottign and
numbers for the plots were being given to the patparganj societies,
gaurav apartments was plot no. 1, it still is no. 1, patparganj....
the apartments were also blesed by such luminaries like madan lal
khurana, shushma swaraj and others... (now that the congress is ruling
delhi i am sure some of their names too have joined this list)... all
their building irregularities (and there were many as in most of these
apartment blocks) were regularised double quick... etc etec...what i
am saying is that these guys were adept at milking the system......
they were regular guys... its not that they were exceptionally evil,
nor are they victims like it is beign made out... they were more a
part of urban middle class uncouth india rather than part of dalit
india (rural or urban)......
sorry for this, perhaps unnecessarily long, reply... but mention of
gaurav apartments to illustrate discrimination against dalits touched
a raw nerve....
waise agar tu chahta hai to is reply ko bhi 'post' kar de... kya farak
padta hai... waise bhi mera purana 'elitist' reputation hai..... uske
saath jachega!

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