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Why Ghettoization Happens

Amir Ali

By Tabassum Ruhi Khan
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 217, Rs. 750.00


This is an interesting and timely book on the Muslim dominated area of Jamia Nagar that has mushroomed around the Jamia Millia Islamia University campus. The author Tabassum Ruhi Khan has been closely associated with the Jamia University as a student of the University’s well-known Mass Communications Research Centre (MCRC). The book itself draws from her experience as a student and subsequent ethnographic field-work. The Jamia Nagar area is one of the more prominent instances of the larger process of ghettoization of India’s Muslims. At the risk of a rather quixotic generalization, this process of ghettoization can be explained in terms of an external and an internal pull factor. The external push factor would subsume the various ways in which many Muslims find it difficult to find accommodation in non-Muslim areas owing to the reluctance on the part of larger society to rent out accommodation to them. The internal pull factor would account for the preference among many Muslims to live among their own kind on account of what Ruhi Khan describes as ‘apna mahaul’ or the various characteristics and accoutrements of Muslim living such as a nearby mosque, access to halal meat, the proximity of the larger familial and kinship group. One other reason that can explain this preference to live among one’s own kind, a point that Ruhi Khan does not really dwell upon, is the safety that an individual Muslim feels, especially in times of communal tension. The particular focus of Ruhi Khan’s book are the youngsters of Jamia Nagar as a result of which she interviewed a number of young men and women with varying levels of educational qualifications, very often with degrees from the Jamia Millia Islamia University. Quite often they are uncertain about their life prospects, yet eager to make their mark. It is interesting that this making of a mark is usually in terms of climbing up the greasy pole of a corporate hierarchy and in the process earning significant amounts of money that will allow them to attain the levels of consumption that Leela Fernandes has pointed out is the characteristic of the new Indian Middle class. To that extent, there is not much that sets apart India’s young Muslims in terms of their aspirations from the rest of India’s middle class. However, there are complexities to the story and it is these complex negotiations that ...

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