‘Lord Ram is everyone’s lord’: RWAs and the push for Hindu pride

Over the years, several RWAs have been guilty of discriminating against non-Hindu residents, and the push for Hindu identity has only become stronger.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
Date:
A Hanuman/Jai Shri Ram flag displayed at a housing society in Sector 79 of Noida.
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It’s impossible to miss the 100-odd saffron flags that currently shroud Mapsko Mount Ville, an upscale residential society in Sector 79 of Gurugram.

The flags, with pictures of Ram, Hanuman and the words “Jai Shri Ram”, aren’t just hoisted at individual homes in the high-rise towers. Instead, they’re raised every few feet in the complex: outside the children’s playground, next to the clubhouse, at the main gate. The flags were erected by a sub-committee of the society’s residents’ welfare association, one of its many efforts to celebrate the consecration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya on January 22. 

But the saffron flags don’t match everyone’s idea of a “celebration”. Vashita Mehra, a former army officer in her late 40s and a resident of the society, holds the RWA responsible for disrespecting other religions through such an overt display of Hindu identity.

“The RWA of Mapsko is hurting religious sentiments by putting these flags everywhere,” she told Newslaundry. “When we’re a secular society, why is this being treated like a Hindu ashram? Aren’t people from other religions living here? Doesn’t the RWA think about how this will feel for people of other religions in the society?”

Saffron flags erected by an RWA in a society in Gurugram Sector 79.

Mehra posted variations of these questions in the RWA’s group on MyGate, an app that purports to manage security in large housing societies. The group’s admins soon deleted her posts. She then WhatsApped the RWA president who shut down her questions by saying his “Muslim friends were happily participating in the Ram Mandir functions”.

Dhirendra Singh, the president of Mapsko’s RWA, told Newslaundry that Mehra was the “only one in the society” to have an issue and that the society had “the right to celebrate”.

With Ram Mandir celebrations in full swing, overt displays of Hindu identity are at an all-time high. RWAs in Delhi are busy organising various initiatives to commemorate the consecration. The temple has been a long-pending promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party, built on the ruins of the Babri Masjid that was forcibly brought down by kar sevaks in 1992.

Newslaundry visited eight housing societies in the national capital region and had phone calls with members of five others about the festivities they’ve planned. 

Importantly, these celebrations come at a time when RWAs have been accused of ‘saffronisation’ – discriminating against Muslim tenants through unofficial rules. We spoke to at least 35 people – residents, landlords, brokers and RWA office-bearers – in Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru and Mumbai to find out more.

RWAs to drive Hindu pride 

RWAs refer to associations formed either for specific housing complexes or for localities in neighbourhoods. They must be registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860. As elected bodies, their main purpose includes collecting maintenance fees, maintaining building facilities, and working for the welfare of residents. The tenure of the elected body differs –Newslaundry met with some RWAs that conduct elections every year, others conduct them every two to five years.

But in recent years, RWAs have been criticised for going beyond their scope of work, introducing bizarre, often unjust rules, such as a Greater Noida society telling residents not to wear lungis or nighties, or another in Gurugram barring members of the opposite sex from visiting bachelors.

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