Delhi, Are You Listening To Her?
Dr Reem Shamsudeen, who made an appeal to CM Kejriwal after being rejected a house in Delhi, talks to The Quint.
She may have been discriminated in Delhi during her hunt for a house on three counts - her disability, faith and gender. Now, after her video appeal (below) to the Delhi Chief Minister has gone viral, Dr Reem Shamsudeen has told The Quint in an exclusive interview that her purpose was “to express a grievance” and “show solidarity” with hundreds of those who come to Delhi from other parts of the country.
The video was the idea of one of my friends. She said it was important to express my grievance as a number of other people also have similar experiences. It was a way to reach out to CM Kejriwal and also stand in solidarity with all those people. We wanted to urge the CM and the public to make the city more accommodative and probably solve this issue with some policy changes and measures.
— Dr Reem Shamsudeen to The Quint
Dr Shamsudeen, who is partially blind, works as an Assistant Professor in the English department at a highly reputed college in Delhi University (DU).
After completing her schooling and college in Kerala, Dr Shamsudeen secured M.Phil and PhD from the English and Foreign Languages School in Hyderabad. Subsequently, she appeared for an interview at the college in DU and was appointed on an ad-hoc basis. After arriving in Delhi in February this year, Dr Shamsudeen stayed as a paying guest along with her mother for three months. She told The Quint,
After summer vacations, I thought I should move to a place of my own. So, we found a house and were to move in July. We had spoken to the owner. Initially, the woman was very sweet and we then met and got to see the house.
However, on the day the professor was supposed to shift into her newly rented house, the owner refused to give her the keys.
We had arrived at her doorstep with the luggage but she just returned our advance token money. The broker told us the landlady was unwilling to give the house.
— Dr Reem Shamsudeen to The Quint
Ask her if she knows why she was denied the house and she says ‘no’.
“Maybe, the attire shows, the surname shows that we are Muslims. I do not think it was on account of my disability. I travel extensively in the Delhi Metro and everyone is supportive there. It is a great system, extremely disabled-friendly and people are genuinely helpful. I have also never faced any discrimination in autos or rickshaws because I take them on a daily basis. I am not complaining against anyone but this experience was disappointing.”
Last February, when Dr Shamsudeen was visiting Delhi, she felt the city was teeming with the “new promises” of a “new government”. In the video addressed to Chief Minister Kejriwal, she states that people were hopeful about how the government would deal with a number of issues including discrimination.
“I was denied the keys by the landlady who said ‘she cannot rent her flat to a Muslim’. Delhi boasts of its cosmopolitan nature all the time. In Hyderabad, I never once experienced discrimination based on my religion.”
Urging Kejriwal to look into the issue, she adds, “I believe the state you administer, the Delhi you promised accommodates every other citizen – Bihari, Malayali, Manipuri, Kashmiri, Goan, black, white, man, woman, transgender, gay, blind deaf, homeless and everyone.”
One of Dr Shamsudeen’s principle concerns is the discrimination her students might be facing on the same grounds.
Thousands of Delhi University students come from other parts of the country. Friends in DU, Jamia, JNU, Ambedkar University and so many others have related similar incidents. Except JNU, which is a residential university, other universities cannot accommodate all outside students. They have to find other places to stay in the city. It is important that such a shameful and inhuman experience is not repeated with them.
Dr Shamsudeen has since been able to move to another place.
Though Dr Shamsudeen, who has now been able to a new place, has not spoken to her students, she would like to “take up the cause” sometime in future. “This is just a small step to show our solidarity”, she adds.
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