Srinagar: A Kashmiri TV actor of ‘Ye Hai Mohabbatein’ fame is being ‘denied space’ because of his ‘Kashmiri roots’ in Mumbai, where he has been living and working for the past two years.
Aly Goni, 24, who left Kashmir for Mumbai some years ago to pursue his modelling/acting career, said he is facing discrimination while trying to rent a house or flat in India’s largest metropolitan city.
“Is it a crime to be born in Kashmir? We have the same documents; the same passport, the same voter card and the same PAN card,” Goni was quoted as saying in media reports. “Then why do we have to face this discrimination?”
There have, of course, been earlier reports from Indian cities where Muslims in general face problems while trying to rent or buy property. Even in Mumbai, supposedly India’s largest ‘melting pot’, many cases of outright rejection of Muslims in such cases have been reported. In fact, Goni is facing the problem in a city where a website once listed a property as having the ‘attributes’ of “Car parking. Cross ventilation. Natural light. Cosmopolitan society. No Muslims.” That was in 2013, and though that advertisement did spark some outrage, Goni’s case makes it clear that being a Kashmiri can be an additional ‘drawback’.
“Not letting someone rent a house anywhere in the country is undemocratic,” Goni said. “I am heartbroken that I am looked at as a threat to society just because I am a Kashmiri Muslim.” He says he faced similar ‘discrimination’ when he first landed in Mumbai. “I couldn’t find any accommodation at that time too.” Dejected, he then shifted to his cousin’s place, where he has been living since.
Now, after two years, and a role in a TV serial and a career as a model, he may be a somewhat recognised face, but getting a place of his own on rent remains a distant dream. Many Kashmiris do privately mention facing such discrimination, but a relative celebrity like Goni openly complaining about such treatment is rather rare.
When he was in college, Goni was a finalist in a modelling event organised by the Indian Film and Television Institute. IFTI. He then decided to pursue modelling or acting as a career and first gained some fame by participating in MTV’s youth-oriented reality show, Splitsvilla. Currently, he is seen playing the role of Romi Bhalla in the popular daily soap ‘Ye Hai Mohabbatein’.
Quoting a famous Hindi film song, and expressing hope that his tribulations end soon, he recently sent out this tweet: “Musafir hu yaaro na ghar hai na thikana. I hope yeh sab khatam hojaye….”