No Kashmiris please: Housing discrimination in Delhi’s Muslim majority areas

20 November 2019
Activists in New Delhi draw murals and messages on a street during a protest against the Indian government's revocation of Kashmir's special status. In the aftermath of the 5 August announcements, Kashmiri students said they were denied rented accommodation in Delhi.
Altaf Qadri / AP
Activists in New Delhi draw murals and messages on a street during a protest against the Indian government's revocation of Kashmir's special status. In the aftermath of the 5 August announcements, Kashmiri students said they were denied rented accommodation in Delhi.
Altaf Qadri / AP


On 12 August, a 23-year-old Kashmiri student in Jamia Nagar, a locality in Delhi, was asked to vacate his three-bedroom flat along with two of his flatmates who are also Kashmiri. He had been residing there for two years. While the landlord told him that this was for conducting house repairs, the student suspected that he was being evicted because he is a Kashmiri. His inability to find another rented accommodation in Jamia Nagar over the next few weeks confirmed his fears that the problem was his Kashmiri identity.

On 5 August the Indian government read down Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The move came amid a communications blackout and internet shutdown in the region. It was followed by a security crackdown, with reports of widespread human-rights violations.

Ever since the escalation of the conflict in Kashmir in the 1980s, ordinary Kashmiris living in mainland India have often faced threats and harassment. Many of mainland India’s residents have viewed Kashmiris with distrust. In the past, Kashmiris have suspected that they have been denied housing in Delhi because of their identity. After 5 August, as Kashmir became a national flashpoint that divided opinion across the country, similar patterns seemed to repeat. On the condition of anonymity, several Kashmiri Muslims spoke to me about their recent challenges in finding rented accommodation in Delhi.

After the landlord told the three flatmates to move out, they contacted a broker to look for another apartment in and around Jamia Nagar. Jamia Nagar is a Muslim-dominated locality in South Delhi, close to the Uttar Pradesh border. It is home to many students of Jamia Millia Islamia, a public university that attracts several Muslim students from across the country, including Kashmir.

The three flatmates had two weeks to locate a flat or find themselves without accommodation. They tried to find apartments in the areas surrounding Jamia Nagar—Zakir Nagar, Ghaffar Manzil and Okhla Vihar—but had no success. The 23-year-old said that he noticed they were being denied accommodation after being shown the apartments. “We got impatient and asked the brokers what was wrong,” he told me. “They simply told us that Kashmiris are not allowed here.”

Ahan Penkar is a fact-checking fellow at The Caravan.

Keywords: Kashmir Article 370 Jamia Milia Islamia Housing discrimination
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