Thursday, October 02, 2014

Gujarat declares communal torn Vadodara "disturbed", bans sale of real estate property between communities

By Our Representative
Vadodara, the cultural capital of India, is now a "disturbed area" for another five years. The Gujarat government move declaring it a "disturbed area" comes following communal clashes, which began last week and continued unabated for five days. The communal clashes were preceded by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) distributing "Love Jihad" leaflets in Vadodara which warned Hindu parents to ensure that their daughters do not fall in the trap on "well-dressed Muslim boys." The clashes have seen several stabbings, and large-scale loot and arson incidents, in "sensitive areas". Women's organisations have accused plainclothes cops of breaking into minority households with iron rods in hands, picking up boys, and attacking womenfolk.
The new notification extends the application of the controversial disturbed areas Act on the city’s “sensitive” areas till 2019. Called Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas (amendment) Act, 2009, it prohibits sale of real estate property between Hindus and Muslims in areas the district collector declares “disturbed.” The original Act 1991 was meant for Ahmedabad only, but in September 2009 it was amended to make it applicable to entire Gujarat, with sweeping powers to district collectors to declare specified areas as “disturbed", banning sale of property between the two communities. Currently, 40 per cent of Ahmedabad is “disturbed area.”
Vadodara district collector Vinod Rao, reportedly justified re-imposition of the disturbed area provisions on “sensitive” areas, sahing, it has nothing to do with the recent violent communal clashes. According to Rao, the earlier notification declaring certain areas of Vadodara “disturbed” expired on September 30, one reason why it needed to be extended in order to “protect the interests of minorities so that they do not indulge in distress sale, and no one is able to evacuate a particular section from any locality.”, Riots in Vadodara were triggered last week because of a Facebook post, which sought to morph the image of a Hindu Goddess with that of an Islamic religious symbol. In all 140 arrests have been made following the riots.
Currently there are about dozen areas of Vadodara which are “disturbed”. However, according to reports, there have been demands for putting at least 10 more residential colonies – some of them posh – in the "disturbed" list. In case the government decides to add more areas, a separate notification would need to be issued. As of today, 50 per cent of Vadodara – third largest city of Gujarat – is “disturbed”, including the entire walled city. Declaring certain areas as "disturbed" and banning sale of property between members of two important communities is unprecedented in India.
Vadodara is known for some excellent academics who who were associated with the city. These include former Reserve Bank governor IG Patel and Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishanan. It has a renowned fine arts faculty attached with the MS University, Vadodara, with which top artists such as Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh, Himmat Shah and Vivan Sundaram were associated with it. It experienced its first major communal in 2002 with the rest of Gujarat. The rioting saw the infamous Best Bakery incident, in which 14 persons, including 11 Muslims and three Hindu employees, were burnt alive. Aggressive saffron attacks have continued thereafter in the city. Members of the saffron brigade targeted artists drawing "objectionable" paintings.
Eleven years following the 2002 communal violence in Gujarat, in which more than 1,000 people died, the Gujarat government declared in 2013 several new areas in Ahmedabad as "disturbed". Apart from communally sensitive Shahpur and Dariapur, it brought Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya, under the disturbed areas Act. Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya saw possibly worst violence in 2002. Minorities in these areas abandoned their homes, and were seeking to sell their properties because of sharp rise in real estate prices.

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