Published On:25 February 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

SPECIAL REPORT: Juhapura – The Largest Muslim Ghetto in Gujarat raises some hope

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

While the communal violence of 2002 divided Gujarat society like never before, there are examples galore of what once symbolised religious harmony in the city. Several housing societies in Juhapura were some of these isles of joy and hope until a series of communal disturbances reduced them to a ghetto.

Noor-e-Lakshmi, Gandhi Smruti, Madhur Mangal and Snehkunj, to name a few, are today exclusively Muslim housing compounds. A few years ago, here Hindus and Muslims pursued happiness together.

Noor-e-Lakshmi was the idea of two friends Divyakant Upadhyaya and Mohammad Shaikh. Looking at the need of the people who intended to shift to a new and more open place, they decided to build houses for them on the outskirts south of the city.

The housing societies had the option of changing their registered names to something that sounded Islamic, but the residents preferred not to do so The area was know as “Sarni Kamdar Society nu pelu paru”. The housing society was the last human settlement. Some people also called it “Juhaji nu paru” after the name of the owner of the huge tract of land in the area. In due course the settlement came to be known as Juhapura.

Both Upadhyaya and Shaikh had some experience in realty. While Upadhyaya had built Lakshmikunj, a housing society named after his daughter Lakshmi, Shaikh used to take up construction work on contract.

Since both of them were to collaborate on the project, they named it after their daughters Lakshmi and Noorjahan as Noor-e-Lakshmi. The 44-tenement society was an instant hit with both communities and came to be fully occupied by 1974-75, recalls 70-year-old Husainabibi Mamti who has seen Juhapura settlement taking shape.

Inspired by its success, several projects came up in Juhapura — Dayanand Society, Nutan Gandhi Smruti, Sardar Smruti, Divyakunj, Madhur Mangal, Himmat Jigar, Snehkunj and a few more. These attracted members from across communities.

In due course, as Ahmedabad demography got divided along communal lines, almost all Hindus migrated to adjoining areas like Jivraj Park, Vejalpur, Fatehpura and Vasna, reducing Juhapura to being an exclusive Muslim enclave.

“The housing societies had the option of changing their registered names to something that sounded Islamic, but the residents preferred not to do so,” says Mamti. She is among the first five people who bought a tenement in Noor-e-Lakshmi.

Ilyas Shaikh recounts how people look at them with surprise when he describes or writes his address. “People think the original name must have been Lakshmi Society which was later changed to Noor-e-Lakshmi to make it sound Islamic when it became an entirely Muslim neighbourhood. But the fact it that our society is a fantastic example of communal harmony and collaboration.”

Shaikh feels sad that at ghettoisation as it has robbed the neighbourhood of colours.To a newcomer the “Hindu-sounding” names may appear strange, but to the local residents they are part of their life and they find nothing unusual in them.

“We are absolutely fine with the names. These societies have existed for a couple of decades and the names do not sound strange to the residents,” says Mohammad Zunaid Qadri who has been living in Divyakunj for more than 30 years.

Celebrate diversity

The spirit with which hundreds of residents of housing societies in exclusively Muslim neighbourhood of Juhapura have retained the name of their ‘Hindu-sounding’ housing societies is commendable.

Hindus have long left and the existing owners have all the liberty to change the names to make them sound Islamic, but they have not done so to honour their harmonious past.
A rainbow always looks better than an arch painted solid with a single colour — from violet or indigo to orange or red. A series of communal disturbances tore Hindus and Muslims apart and the basic human instinct to look for physical safety made them think it is better to live in ghettos than in a melting pot. It is for us Amdavadis to decide if we want a culturally monotonous city or a livelier one that celebrates diversity.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on February 25, 2012. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on February 25, 2012. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

1 comments for "SPECIAL REPORT: Juhapura – The Largest Muslim Ghetto in Gujarat raises some hope"

  1. well said words of glorious harmony...peace everywhere......

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