MUMBAI: In September 1990, Captain Zainul Abidin Juvale, master of a cargo vessel called MV Safeer, became master of the fate of 722 Indians who sailed out with him from Kuwait to Dubai. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's troops had invaded Kuwait and the Indians there were stranded for over a month.
Tanweer Khalfay, one of the passengers on Juvale's vessel, had told TOI (September 12, 1990): "The BBC team that covered our arrival in Dubai called him [Juvale] a hero, but we don't need foreigners to tell us that."
For over a month now, Juvale has been house-hunting in Bandra (W), but he is unable to buy a flat when he likes one.
The brokers have frankly told him that the societies where he has shown interest have an unwritten rule: not to rent or sell flats to Muslims.
"Nobody asked me my religion when I risked my life to rescue fellow Indians who faced starvation and death in Kuwait," says Juvale. "Now I am being made aware of my Muslim identity."
Juvale, whose family originally comes from the Konkan, proudly says that he is a Maharashtrian. His grandfather, Fakir Mohamed Juvale, was the first Indian captain in the merchant navy and was instrumental in opening the first nautical school in the country in 1923. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1981.
"My grandfather's autobiography was first published in Marathi," says Juvale. "I never thought that my own city, Mumbai, and especially Bandra, which I call the most cosmopolitan area in the city, would shut its doors on me."
For a Muslim, finding a home outside a Muslim ghetto is a real problem in the city. Seven years ago, Zafar Sareshwala, a businessman from Ahmedabad who had settled in England after the 2002 riots, moved to the city and underwent a similar experience. "I must have seen more than a dozen flats and everywhere I was told that they were not for Muslims," says he.
A veteran broker who took TOI reporters around a 2-BHK sea-facing flat in Pali Naka, Bandra, says he no longer takes prospective buyers to societies which might discriminate against Muslims.
He says he now takes clients only to buildings with "cosmopolitan mindsets".
Amir Rizvi, who started a 'Flats Without Brokers' page on Facebook in 2007 says there is segregation in the city, which is further perpetuated by real estate brokers.
"They take potential clients to areas that have been unofficially earmarked for Muslims," says Rizvi. "Millat Nagar near Lokhandwala, pockets in Bandra (west), Jogeshwari, [and outside the city] Mira Road, Kalyan, Mumbra and Bhiwandi have come up as Muslim areas."
Now, rental advertisements seeking tenants read like those put up in matrimonial columns.
"Everything is mentioned, including caste, creed, skin colour, work timings and marital status," says Rizvi. "It is as if you are not looking for a tenant but a life partner."
It did not surprise Rizvi when a broker put up an advertisement saying 'No Muslims' on a property website. Though the advertisement was withdrawn after public protests and the website apologized for allowing it to be uploaded, the reality has not changed.