Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Now, ghettoisation on caste lines

By SUDHAKAR RAO

SURAT: Sanjay Mehta, a diamond worker, had bought a house at the newly-built Shivdarshan Society in an upper middle class locality of Puna Gaam in Surat in April. After he paid about Rs 3.38 lakh, which was part of the bungalow's cost, he was forced to give up the house when some residents found out his caste.

"When the residents learnt that I was not from their caste, I started getting threat calls and eventually I had to withdraw my offer and take back my money," says Mehta.

As if community-based ghettoisation was not enough in Gujarat, caste-based ghettoisation is becoming a harsh reality in an outwardly progressive city like Surat. Social scientists believe this could be the revival of the hegemony of particular classes, who feel threatened by cosmopolitanism.

Some of the signboards outside housing societies blatantly say, "Ahiyan Patel sivaay koiye rehvu nahi ke koine bhaade aapvu nahi, koi jaat na ghar nu levad devad karvu nahi" They are mostly visible in areas like Katargaam, Varachha and Punagaam.

The ghettoisation is to such an extent that if an outsider moves into the area, the residents revolt. Even during the TOI team's visit to such areas, a group of residents took objection and started asking questions.

Laxmanbhai Mehpani, a Patel staying in the Shivdarshan Society says, "The mental make-up of the people is such that nothing can be done about this." A drug store owner, Sanjay Bhayani, who lives in the Shiv Shakti society in Puna Gaam, says, "We don't want non-Patels to stay here." He argues that if Varachha is dominated by Saurashtra Patels, Pandesara is identified with Oriyas, Palanpur Patia with Maharashtrians.

"Surat is one of the more cosmopolitan cities where some castes are feeling threatened, as a result of which such polarisation develops," says Satyakam Joshi, a well-known sociologist.

Former president of the Surat Bar Association Babu Rayka says, "There is a traditional conflict between certain castes, so this is mainly to keep off rival castes from their localities."

Local MLA Dhirubhai Gajera, who represents Surat city (north), feigned ignorance about the banners in Katargaam and said, "I will not comment until I see the banners." Water resources minister Narottam Patel, who represents Choryasi, which covers the Unn Gaam area, said, "I am not aware of such a thing and cannot comment on the issue sitting in Gandhinagar. If such a thing is happening, then it is wrong."

Source: The Times of India, January 05, 2005

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