ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Raising Walls: Reframing Religious Discrimination, Housing Exclusion and Muslim Segregation in Indian Cities


Lone Asaf Ali - Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, India


27 – Muslim agency within and against India’s regimes of urban segregation


 The problem of urban exclusion of religious minorities in India has primarily been studied from the lens of sectarian violence and spatial segregation (Jaffrelot & Gayer 2012).Scholars have started paying close attention to housing market mechanisms, including the existence of religious prejudice in the rental market (Thorat et al 2015) and real estate commercial networks engendering segregation (Susewind 2015).This paper extends this focus to theorise the nature, modalities and impact of religious discrimination against Muslims in the rental housing markets of Delhi and Mumbai.It draws from two-year market ethnography of how Muslim tenants navigate urban rental housing and how networks of market actors and intermediaries constitute housing access.Religious discrimination becomes an immanent logic of rental markets through the interaction of market actors within contexts of structural and layered precarity and interdependence. Discrimination splits the rental market into variegated routes to housing for Muslims. The paper proposes that “segregation” should also be conceptualised in these “relational” (Harvey 2006) terms, as differentiated, compartmentalised and diminished access to urban housing market networks.This perspective reveals how Muslims negotiate housing access in heightened conditions of religious discrimination.It also shows whether and to what extent diverse modes of housing access –online and offline– opens new avenues for Muslim tenants to gain housing access.