WASHINGTON - Indias Muslims face new discrimination following last Novembers attacks in Mumbai and now even Bollywoods Muslim celebrities are being denied housing in Hindu residential complexes, a leading US newspaper reported Sunday.
The Washington Post correspondent in Mumbai interviewed with some well-placed Muslims who were barred from renting a place to live.
One such case was that of Palvisha Aslam, a 22-year-old Bollywood producer, who was rejected by an estate broker when he noticed her last name as she was about to sign the lease.
It was just six weeks after the November Mumbai terrorist attacks and Indian Muslims were being viewed with suspicion across the country, correspondent Emily Wax wrote.
He (the broker) then showed her a grimy one-room tenement in a Muslim-dominated ghetto.
She felt sick to her stomach as she watched the residents fight over water at a leaky tap in a dark alley, the dispatch said.
That night I cried a lot.
I was still an outcast in my own country - even as a secular Muslim with a well-paid job in Bollywood, Ms Aslam, who had similar experiences with five other brokers and three months later is still sleeping on friends sofas, was quoted as saying.
Im an Indian.
I love my country.
Is it a crime now to be a Muslim in Mumbai? (S)tories like (Ms) Aslams are common, even among some of the countrys most beloved Bollywood actors, screenwriters and producers in Indias most cosmopolitan city, the Post dispatch said.
The accusations of discrimination highlight the often simmering religious tensions in the worlds biggest democracy, where Muslim celebrities can be feted on the red carpet one minute and locked out of quality housing the next, it said.
The phenomenon has become known here as 'renting while Muslim.
It raises questions that go to the heart of Indias identity as a secular democracy that is home to nearly every major religion on the planet.
Although India has a Hindu majority, it also has 150 million Muslims, one of the largest Muslim communities in the world.
The new generation wants a better India that isnt bogged down in religious strife, said Junaid Memon, 34, a Muslim Bollywood director who is trying to promote religious harmony through his films and his Facebook site.
We shouldnt be an India that ghettoises all Muslims to apartments near a mosque.
This is a real test for modern India.
With national elections across India that began Thursday and last a month, correspondent Wax pointed out some Muslim activists and Bollywood film directors are raising the issue with political parties and trying to form a voting bloc.
This election, we have to talk about housing discrimination against Muslims, said Zulfi Sayed, a Muslim actor who is outspoken about the issue and is courting Hindus who agree with him.
In a shining India, this shouldnt be still such a common practice.
In the days after Novembers Mumbai attacks, Muslims, fearing attacks from Hindu mobs, held candlelight vigils with a message to protest terrorism and pledge loyalty to India, according to the dispatch.
Afroz Alam Sahil, 21, a student activist at Jamia Millia Islamia College in New Delhi, said that more than a dozen students from states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar - which have large Muslim populations - have been unable to find housing since the Mumbai attacks.
Some Muslim friends have dropped out of college because they have nowhere to stay, Sahil was quoted as saying.
There is intense suspicion.
Sometimes I ask myself why I was born Muslim.
Rana Afroz, a Muslim editor with the newspaper the Hindu, is investigating the issue after spending three months unable to find a landlord willing to rent to her and her husband.
It is ridiculous that I have to prove to non-Muslims that I am not making bombs in my kitchen, she said.
Is this really the modern India I live in? Correspondent Wax wrote, In India, Muslims are often segregated, and they experience high poverty rates and low literacy.
Although they make up nearly 14pc of Indias population, they hold fewer than 5pc of government posts and are just 4pc of the student body in Indias elite universities, according to a 2006 government report.
But there are few issues more emotional than housing, especially in Mumbai .
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Indias pulsating city of dreams where aspiring farmers and filmmakers come from across the country to seek fame and fortune.
The ethos of Bombay is a city open to the world.
The Muslims of this city feel that way, too.
But the real question is why do we as Indian Muslims always have to be proving our loyalty? asked Nawman Malik, a popular Bollywood producer who spent months searching for an apartment.
Mumbai has always had tensions over what are known here as 'vegetarian buildings, where meat eaters are not allowed to live and are thus seen as devices to keep out Muslims and lower-caste Hindus, the Post dispatch said.
Those kinds of buildings have become more common in middle-class and posh neighbourhoods as more merchants and industrialists from the neighbouring state of Gujarat, where vegetarian Hinduism is the norm, migrate to Indias richest city.
Vegetarian-building managers say they dont want the smell of meat in their hallways.
But they often also explain their rules by saying they are worried about security and want like-minded residents to live together, the dispatch said.
Say you check one renter and they seem okay.
But then they go to mosque and bring back their bearded friends and those friends are terrorists, said Raj Pathak, a vegetarian-building manager in downtown Mumbai.
Why do we have to live with such fears? Muslims, who have seen housing discrimination and the number of vegetarian buildings spike after every attack, see the issue as blatant discrimination, it said.
Everyone knows the vegetarian-only restriction is code language for 'No Muslims, said Naved Khan, a Muslim real estate broker who is trying to help Bollywoods Muslims find housing.
The dispatch said, On a recent afternoon, (Ms) Aslam, the producer, hung out at a cafe, as she sometimes does so she doesnt get on the nerves of those she is staying with.
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Until January, she was living with a Hindu roommate.
Then their lease ended.
Her roommate was getting married.
So I thought I would get my own place as a successful adult, said Ms Aslam, who had come to Mumbai from Kolkata with dreams of landing a Bollywood job.
My mom was really proud of me.
Now shes really upset.
A broker recently showed her a house in a working-class neighbourhood.
It looked haunted.
But I was denied even that, she said.
Another broker gave her advice: Madam, live with a Hindu roommate.
Only then will you get a flat.