Discrimination and Mumbai

Just caught the end of the News Hour on Times Now. The discussion on a Muslim not getting housing in Mumbai. The politicians saying there is no discrimination. What utter crap! My name is Sabira Fernandes. I am of Goan heritage and was raised a Catholic. I was named after Sabira Merchant, who is a Muslim. I have been asked if one of my parents is Muslim. No they are both Goan Catholics, and my heritage goes back generations. In fact, I am sometimes amused and surprised, if at interviews, my religion, or the etymology of my name does not come up. Yes internationally it is illegal to ask such questions, but it is routine in India, even in multinational companies. And I am talking of large multinational companies who have been here for 50+ years in India.

Secondly, a little more than a decade ago, when I was looking at buying a house, at one builder’s office I stood in one queue, and my sister in another. At the point when I said my name – I usually don’t give my surname – I was told there was no place, all the flats were sold out. I went to the queue where my sister was in, and she said we were going to see the sample flats. My sister’s name is Sunita, as Hindu as it can get, and we were royally ushered in. On questioning the builder’s representative, we were told that “Yes, we have an unwritten rule towards ‘certain’ communities; Why didn’t you say ‘Fernandes’, we would have shown you the sample flats.”

So no discrimination, my left foot!

And this has emerged even larger after the Mumbai Riots.

During the Bombay Riots 1991-92, I was urged to respond to ‘Fernandes’, not Sabira, because ‘you never know what would happen!’ My boss who was a Hindu, and stayed in Bandra, used to roam with my identity card, (we had similar hairstyles and facial features were not too discernble on those tiny atrocious snaps on the ID card). Passing through riot-torn Mahim, she could pass off as ‘Catholic’, which was a safe religion to be in. Ofcourse the consequences of identity theft had not hit me then.

My India is the MOST racist place I have ever been. When I was in college, during the ‘hair perm’ craze, I was once tanned black after a week on a beach. I could pass of as an African, with my skin and curly permed hair and walking through Colaba, I heard the taunts from the shopkeepers. I learned new words that day. The innocence of youth shocked into reality.

I have a Muslim friend, who got a Domicile Certificate done. Why? “Because you never know when I will have to prove that I am an Indian.” Such is the trepidation.

As a lady with a Goan heritage, it is not unusual to have my country people treat me as if I was a foreigner. Especially North Indians, who haven’t moved too much off North.

Also Christians, are still considered ‘outsiders’.

Is this India? The politicians milk religion for their pockets. And the country suffers. Divide and rule. The Indian politicians have taken a step further, divide and increase hatred.

My experiences.

So don’t tell me there is no discrimination. I have stories to tell!

2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jewellyn said,

    Having heard these stories from Sabira before, she has pulled them together at the right moment making it an interesting read.


Comment RSS · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: