No Muslims ad in 99 acres starts fresh debate on discrimination
The petitioner in the case will seek formulation of guidelines to prevent any discriminatory ads from being posted.
Property portal 99acres.com, after issuing a statement declaring its embarrassment at a broker-posted advertisement on the site for a Mumbai apartment with a 'No Muslims' clause, began what appeared to be an extensive search and clean-up operation for similar ads on its site. On microblogging site Twitter too, @99acresindia responded to dozens of tweets thanking users for pointing out discriminatory advertisements posted by users.
"Putting new processes in place to catch them early," the tweets said, though the company had reportedly told the National Minorities Commission earlier that they should not be held responsible as theirs is a user-based portal.
A day after the offensive advertisement posted by a Mumbai property broker was pointed out to the site administrators, the user had himself deleted the offending portion of the ad.
Meanwhile, Delhi-based social activist and lawyer Shehzad Poonawalla, who filed a complaint against the advertisement with the National Commission for Minorities, is hoping to use this instance to tackle the larger issue of prejudices and discrimination against minority communities.
Maintaining that he has no animosity towards 99acres.com, the activist who runs the All India Muslim Agenda told Firstpost that what he expects to hear from the portal is what action they can take to prevent such ads from being posted in the future. "99acres cannot evade responsibility by saying we are merely a platform. They are a business and they seemed to have allowed the incentivisation of discrimination, which is deplorable," he said, adding that he hopes the portal will installbetter processes to ensure such an advertisement is never posted again on their site but also to state that as a business they have a policy that is clearly opposed to such discrimination.
Poonawalla will meet commission chairperson Wajahat Habibullah on Friday evening and will not onlydemand action in this specific case but will also suggest the formulation of guidelines, in consultation with stakeholders, to prevent discriminatory practices in the future.
Poonawalla said he wouldscope out the possibility of a discussion with all-India realtors, developers and other stakeholders, organised within the ambit of the National Commission for Minorities.
That homes in Mumbai are advertised as off limits for Muslims indicates just how deep the discrimination runs, Poonawalla said, adding that if liberal Muslims in urban areas face such practices then "can u imagine the discrimination that comes about to a Muslim who perhaps sports a beard and skull cap and hails from, say, Azamgarh or Darbhanga?"
Poonawalla said, "The ad says that I or you can be good Indians, who earn a legal income, can afford to make the rent yet we do not deserve housing of our choice... Because we are Muslims!"
On Thursday, a statement from 99acres saidthey are a platform or an intermediary. "As per industry practice it is our responsibility to remove any illegal content from our site as soon as it comes to our notice.We are in the process of putting in place more rigorous checks and processes to prevent the recurrence of such listings.We are deeply embarrassed that our site was misused in this manner.Our company remains totally against discriminatory practices," the statement said.
Meanwhile, National Commission for Minorities chairperson Wajahat Habibullah told CNN-IBN thatthe panel would examine the legal aspects of how to curb such advertisements. "We are examining it, the advertisement is ridiculous," he said. "It's highly offensive -- are Muslims part of some furniture?
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