In these divisive times when hatred is fashionable and bullying macho, a housing society in Malad comprising around 100 families is setting an example for Mumbai, and the rest of India. The entire society, led by the women residing there, came together to support a Muslim family after a six-year-old girl went home crying last weekend when a couple of children refused to play with her citing her faith.
The incident occurred last Saturday when the children had gathered in the play area at Royal Oasis society in Malad West. The girl’s family said that minutes after she left her home to play with her friends, she rushed back in tears, saying a couple of kids taunted her for being a Muslim.
The girl’s mother put out her child’s ordeal on the society’s WhatsApp group, after which at least a dozen women came out in her support. A few others personally met with the woman and told her that such behaviour will not be allowed in the society. Later, the girl’s mother approached the two children’s family, and was told that the kids may have heard such ideas from others. The children have been counselled to ensure they respect everyone, the parents said.
The women held a meeting wherein each one of them decided they’ll sensitise their children to ensure such an incident doesn’t get repeated. They also decided that they’ll celebrate all festivals in the society to send out a message of unity in diversity. All of them assembled in the common area along with their children on Thursday evening for the Ganpati Visarjan.
The society’s stance was both bold and refreshing, considering the communal hate that is being spewed out in the country. Whether it is lynchings in the name of cow protection or people being forced to say Jai Shree Ram, there is palpable fear among the minorities in the country.
The girl’s mother told this newspaper that the support her family received following Saturday’s incident has convinced her that her children were “growing up in the right atmosphere”. “The kids are back to playing together. There is no animosity whatsoever,” she said.
The residents pointed out to at least two housing societies in the area where members of only a particular community can buy or rent flats. There are many other societies in the same area where it is demanded of residents that they don’t cook non-vegetarian food at home. They said their society was a “refreshing change” because it comprises residents of all faiths. “Our society welcomes all and that’s how it will remain. The only thing that is not welcome here is bigotry,” said Garima Shrivastava, a Royal Oasis resident.
Society members now plan to organise dinners and get-togethers to make their children aware of different cultures. “Mothers are children’s first teachers and I want my kids to respect everyone. They should not grow up carrying any sort of bias,” said another resident, Rukshana.