New Delhi: It is not the first instance of moral police banning the opposite sex visitors to meet tenants. Tenants have to sometimes face the discrimination by the landlords on the basis of gender, religion, marital status and even food habits.
Unmarried men and women find it particularly difficult to bring visitors of the opposite sex, save living on rent with members of the opposite sex. The videos got surfaced after an incident, where the society’s RWA members were preventing tenants from bringing in visitors of the opposite sex.
On August 4, a scuffle between the RWA members and a few of the bachelor tenants of Essel Towers’ Pilot Court broke out around 8 pm and continued till 2 am when a few female tenants were stopped from letting their visitors in well before the “curfew time” of 10 pm.
The crowd grew as a tenant named Abhay (name changed) was not allowed from taking his sister to his apartment. Despite him providing proofs of his sister’s identity, the RWA members were seen blocking the entrance not budging from their decision, according to The Quint.
Around 30-40 people are seen in the video arguing over the discriminatory rule that was not mentioned in the contract signed between tenants and landlords, nor circulated before implementation.
When questioned about how they can enforce an arbitrary rule out of the blue, an RWA member was heard saying, “Pooccho kya kya nahin ho raha hai (Ask me what doesn’t go on in the flats). We all know what goes on.”
While some members indirectly accused the bachelor tenants of being involved in “wrongful acts”, one member was caught on video saying blatantly, “I will tell your landlord that you support prostitution.”
When tenants protested against the differential treatment towards married occupants and unmarried occupants of the flat, a member was heard screaming agitatedly, “You’re asking how can you make rules? Yes, we can make rules.”
One other male member was heard moral policing a female tenant and saying, “You being a lady should understand. It’s for your own safety.”
The ruckus got worse when an RWA member by the name of Anila Bhatia tried to grab the phone of one of the residents who was recording the entire incident. The resident also alleged that the woman physically assaulted her after throwing her phone on the ground.
Meanwhile, Capt SP Sinha, who is a committee member of Essel Towers regarding the incident, said the video on “prostitution” was taken out of context. “The single tenants and their friends outnumber the rest of us and they create a nuisance on weekends. One friend comes, another goes, never to be seen again. We only asked for authorised IDs. Show us your Aadhaar card! We are not against anybody’s fundamental rights, but even we have the fundamental right to live in peace. We have families living here,” he said.
He further said that the new committee was formed for specifically tackling this “nuisance”. When asked why Essel Towers tenant Abhay wasn’t allowed to bring in his sister despite having furbished ID proofs, Sinha said he wasn’t exactly aware of what transpired between Abhay and the other RWA members.
“You can’t come at 3 am and say this is my friend or sister. I cannot describe what goes on in here. It’s like a hotel business,” he claimed.
The residents of Pilot Court say that although other clusters of apartments in the same complex had implemented the rule, Pilot Court – which houses 400 bachelors approximately – has not had an issue over the matter. While the RWA had circulated a notice saying that all tenants and regular visitors need to get their apartment identity cards issued, there was no mention of a curfew timing to be able to bring in friends or family members of the opposite sex.
A female resident, who did not wish to be named for fear of being harassed, said that the landlords didn’t express any displeasure over their tenants bringing in people of the opposite sex, but it is the RWA members who enforced the rule without any prior warning. She said that since the incident, visitors were banned for single tenants altogether.
She also said that circulars on the new rule were printed only on 5 August which reads:
Visitors other than the immediate family members of the occupants (tenancy excluding families) are not allowed after 22.00 hours and before 08.00 hours and are not allowed to stay overnight.
Although the RWA members have clearly asserted their right to be able to enforce such rules, legally those rules amount to nothing if not specifically included in the tenant’s contract. Further, the rule cannot be forcefully enforced but passed by all members concerned.
In Pune, police have started taking notice of the illegal practices being carried out by many housing societies. While housing societies can make their own laws, there are many instances when the Supreme Court has ruled that on the basis of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to Indian citizens by the Constitution, tenants have the right to reside without discrimination on the basis of religions, caste, gender and marital status.