When I posted a draft map of Muslim life in Lucknow last week, I briefly mentioned that the newer parts of Lucknow seem more strongly segregated into Muslim or non-Muslim areas than the old city. Similar comments were made whenever I discussed the map with people here. For today's post, I thus dug a bit deeper into the data to see if dispassionate statistics support this impression. By and large, they do: not only do more Muslims live in the older parts of town - people in old Lucknow also experience a more diverse setup of residential pattern than those in new Lucknow. Two graphs shall illustrate the point.

First, I plotted a histogram of polling booths according to their Muslim population percentage. The vertical axis of the graph below (click on it to pop up a larger version) reflects Muslim population percentage: bars at the bottom stand for booths with few Muslims on the electoral rolls, those at the top indicate booths with many; the average Muslim popualation share across all booths is indicated by the dotted line. The horizontal axis in turn reflects the number of polling booths within each slab of population share: old Lucknow's booth to the left, those across the river to the right.1 To make things clear, the graph also contains a simple example of how to read it - I colored all booths with a Muslim population share of 75%, so you can see that there are 10 such booths, all of which lie in old Lucknow:

What does this graph tell us about residential segregation? Firstly, you can see that the histogram's overall shape roughly resembles a pyramid: the majority of polling booths in Lucknow have a less-than-average share of Muslims on their electoral rolls, and there are only few areas with high Muslim percentage. This is true for both sides of the river. But you can also see that the pyramid has a dent on its top right edge: while old Lucknow (to the left) has a sizeable number of booths with average, above average and even majority Muslim representation, there are much fewer such areas in new Lucknow (to the right). This partly confirms my first impression in last week's post, where I wrote that new Lucknow's colonies seem to have either very few or very many Muslims. I was right in assuming that most of new Lucknow has very few Muslims, but wrong in assuming that this implies stronger concentration of Muslims in a few select areas: in fact, areas of high Muslim population share are not more frequent than those with mixed residency - both are rare to find in new Lucknow.2

Residential segregation is not only an abstract feature of spatial units, however - it is foremost a fact of everyday life which delimits or allows certain inter-communal experiences and impacts feelings of belonging. Rather than showing the areas with Muslim-minority, mixed, and Muslim-majority voters, the following graph thus plots absolute population figures:

Seen from this angle, the data basically show that in old Lucknow, similar numbers of Muslims live in Muslim-minority, mixed, and Muslim-majority neighbourhoods. The old city provides a diversity of residential arrangements, and the bars at the bottom, middle and top of the left side of the graph thus have similar length. If a Muslim lives in one of the colonies in new Lucknow, however, he or she will much more likely end up having a minority experience: the concentration of bars in the right bottom area of the graph, below the average line, shows that most Muslims across the liver do live in Muslim-minority areas (obviously, since only such areas exist there - but the point of this graph is to show how many people are affected by this).

What the data can't show, of course, is what it means to grow up in a Muslim-majority, mixed, or Muslim-minority area. The statistics only confirm that the latter is much more common in new Lucknow, whereas old Lucknow provides a more diverse residential pattern. But which experiences are enabled or prevented in either configuration, and how these experiences impact on feelings of belonging, aspirations, ideas about Muslims and non-Muslims, etc. is something I want to explore further.

Neither can these statistics tell the reason for the differences between old and new Lucknow, and for the stronger segregation within new Lucknow. Discrimination in the housing market has been alleged by many of my informants, but there is also the economic reality that property and rent in new Lucknow are more expensive - so Muslims might just be too poor to afford living there (especially if they have the option to stay in a little property in old Lucknow). From what I hear at least, overt discrimination is not as prominent in Lucknow as, for example, in Delhi. The bottomline therefore is: more work needs to be done, exploring both how segregation comes about, and what its consequences might be. But the fact that residential segregation exists, and that it exists more strongly in new Lucknow, has been firmly established...

I would like to acknowledge the use of the Oxford Supercomputing Centre (OSC) in carrying out this work.

  • 1. For this post, old Lucknow and new Lucknow basically means east or west of the river, within the overall bounds of the MODIS built-up area polygon. If I would only include the area between Charbagh and Chowk as "old Lucknow" and the neighbourhoods of Indira Nagar and Gomti Nagar as "new Lucknow" - which probably reflects the mental map of most Lucknowites more adequately - the results shown would be similar, but more pronounced.
  • 2. One of the reasons for why my first visual impression was wrong is that I focussed too much on the one prominent Muslim area in Gomti Nagar - which is, as I learned, Ujariyau, a Muslim village which has been there before new Lucknow emerged. The pitfalls of first visual impressions..