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French "ethnographic" inquiry calls Ahmedabad's Juhapura, a Muslim ghetto, model on which Modi built career

By Our Representative
A French "ethnographic inquiry" into Ahmedabad's Muslim ghetto Juhapura, where more than 2.5 lakh people live, has termed the area "a modality of the governance of Ahmedabad’s Muslim minority mobilised by the Modi government from 2002 to 2014".Saying that it is the same Modi who will be celebrating one year as Prime Minister on May 26, the "inquiry" comments, "During this year, the election of Narendra Modi has increased risks of threats on freedom and religious practices of non-Hindu minorities".
The paper titled "Being Muslim in Narendra Modi's India: Ghetto Life Between Domination and Resistance", by Charlotte Thomas of the Paris Institut d’Etudes Politiques (the French Institute of Political Sciences), has been published by the Network of Researchers in International Affairs' (NORIA's) South Asia Programme. The researcher qualifies Juhapura as forming part of the Gujarat model around which Modi "built his political career".
"It is the state in which the anti-Muslim pogroms of 2002 took place, and Modi was considered as their instigator", the researcher says, adding, "Before 2002, the locality (Juhapura) was a simple Muslim neighbourhood which was economically disadvantaged and counted approximately 50 000 inhabitants." However, "the pogrom transformed this space by attracting the mass influx of Muslims seeking an ethnic entre-soi, perceived as protective."
Thomas says, "This is particularly true for the Muslim upper-classes, which, for the first time, were also victims of violence, while they had been spared until then. It can be distinguished from a simple ethnic neighbourhood by four characteristics: forced installation, confinement, consubstantial identity stigma and the duplication of institutions by private actors in the absence of a public presence."
"Tangibly", the researcher says, "Life conditions of the inhabitants of Juhapura, and their difficulties in accessing an effective form of citizenship, brings them to considering themselves as 'second-class citizens'... It could be associated, although with caution, with a form of ethnicisation of Indian citizenship. Although formally Muslim citizens have the same rights as their Hindu counterparts, in Ahmedabad and even more in Juhapura, their ethnicity disqualifies them from an effective form of citizenship."
"Each characteristic of the ghetto constitutes a modality of this domination. The first has been, alongside the ghetto’s formation, the purification of the urban territories of Ahmedabad from their Muslim presence, and the implementation of an ethnic entre-soi, superposed with an economic entre-soi for the Hindus. This governance modality has relied on the forced installation in the ghetto,", the researcher says.
Pointing towards how the ghetto has been deprived of infrastructure, the researcher says, "The inhabitants are all victims of what the doctors call the 'Juhapura cough', a consequence of the dust. More serious problems come from the water delivered each day, which is almost unfit for consumption. The doctors interviewed reveal many respiratory and digestive illnesses stemming from the infiltration of toxic solutions in the soil by the used water treatment facilities."
"Public hospitals are nonexistent", the researcher says, adding, "The four public schools only barely cover 10% of the educational needs of the ghetto’s inhabitants." She adds, the police forces' presence is the only representation of "public power visibly present in the ghetto". This force frequently undertakes "arbitrary arrests, notably of young men, frequents car searches – in order to find meat that was illegally introduced in the ghetto."
Giving example of how the elite in Juhapura have come to acquire "luxurious residential compounds, built with money earned in the Gulf and based", the inquiry states, "The attraction for the Gulf goes beyond the mere economic sphere: cultural elements are equally present in the ghetto, as visible in the names of the residential compound al-Bhurooj or the Aladdin restaurant." This elite is now seeking to "reevaluate" its identity to overcome the "stigma of the ghetto form."

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