Edited by Madhavi Roy, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
‘Ghettoization’ refers to the phenomenon of isolating the members of one community in a separate place. “Ghettos” are those quarters or those parts of cities where the community resides, separated from the other parts of the country/city. In India, it is not hard to find Muslim ghettos in almost every city and Dalit ghettos in rural areas. If one traces the historical trends, ghettos were not a common sight in the olden times. Though some cities of India were home to some specific communities, like Lucknow and Aligarh were to Muslims, this does not amount to ghettoization. Ghettoization carries with it a sense of alienation and separation, as if the ‘ghettoed’ community does not belong to the society.
Partition, refugee colonies, riots have given rise to the formation of ghettos. Some incidences instill fear and apprehensions in minds of people about other communities. Hence, some members think it best to reside amongst their “own people”. In cases of communal violence, people from a particular community find it safer to move with people from the same community. It gives them a sense of security, a sense of safety. The example of Ahmedabad best demonstrates this phenomenon. In the last 6 decades, Ahmedabad has been inflicted with communal violence, in one form or the other. It has been witnessed that Muslims from the walled city and the industrial belt have moved in large numbers to the periphery of the city, to Juhapura. However, such ghettoization is harmful to the nation in more than one way.
Firstly, it is dangerous for our nation’s secular principles. India’s social fabric is woven using threads of various colours, each having its own identity. A society is incomplete if all its components work in isolation from each other. Ghettoisation is regressive to harmonisation of different cultures. If we start encouraging that people of different communities live in different areas of the society, it will lead to misunderstandings and apprehensions amongst communities. Ghettoisation may seem like a safe way to live peacefully without communal violence. Communities may not interact much and live in ghettos. However, total isolation is impossible and the inevitable interactions won’t be as peaceful. Thus, isolation does not work in the long run.
Another impact of ghettoization on the society pertains to the economic sphere. The economic interests of ‘ghettoed’ people aren’t farther away from their ghettos. In most cases, mobility is restricted. For instance, an essay by Jaffrelot reveals that in Ahmedabad, the ghetto of four lakh people in the periphery of the city has no bus connectivity to reach the main city. These constraints prevent most members from the ‘ghettoed’ communities from availing educational and job opportunities.
There are even instances of house owners refusing to let out their homes to Muslims. The Muslims have no choice but to find a home in the “Muslim clusters” which are usually not the best areas in a city. In the wake of the recent “forced-conversion” incidents, which stirred controversies and hurt secular sentiments, it is of utmost importance that we re-enforce shared living, and not separate living. For keeping the secular fabric of India intact, it is essential that we increase understanding between communities, and this cannot be done with communities living in separate worlds of their own. For living in harmony, different religious groups must have free access to each other’s public domain
1.JAFFRELOT, C. (2012, July 23). The sense of a community.
Poorva is a first year Economics student at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi. She keeps herself abreast of all the current affairs and holds a firm opinion about everything happening around her. She deems all forms of expression, be it acting, painting or writing, as a gift to the mankind. She is also involved in social service through two of her college societies, Enactus and NSS. She can be contacted at :firstname.lastname@example.org“