An owner of a house in a residential society in Vasna area of Vadodara, Gujarat, called off his plan to sell his property to a Muslim after the society’s residents objected to it, The Indian Express reported on Monday.

The members of Samarpan Society claimed the sale was illegal as the area falls under the Disturbed Areas Act. According to the law, a “disturbed” area is where “public order in the said areas was disturbed for a substantial period by reason of riots or violence of mob”. The society was declared a “disturbed area” in 2014.

The act does not permit the sale of a property to a Muslim in a Hindu-dominated area and vice versa until the immediate neighbours of the property accept it. To transfer the property, the owner needs to show a no-objection certificate from the president of the society, along with a sanction from the collector.

On Sunday, around 80 to 90 residents of the society gathered and submitted a letter of objection, The Times of India reported. The residents reportedly objected to even showing homes to members of minority communities.

The owner, Mahesh Palani, had submitted an application for police verification for the sale of his property. After the protests, he cancelled the proceedings. “The buyer had come through a very close friend,” he told The Indian Express. “Since the reference person is very reliable, I did not mind showing him the property. The party was also willing to pay adequately. I had told him that the sale might not come through because of the Disturbed Areas Act. I submitted an application in the police station for verification to proceed further but I will withdraw it today.”

SS Jasani, sub-inspector of JP Road police station, said the owner withdrew his application before they could proceed with the verification. “We were present at the society in the morning also to look into any law and order situation,” he added.

The residents claimed that selling houses to people from minority community led to devaluation of the area in terms of real estate prices and members of the Hindu community tend to migrate.

However, the general secretary of the society, Bikramjeet Singh, claimed that residents do not have a problem with people from minority communities. “When the properties are sold to members from the minority community, the latter tend to first buy it at a high price and then sell it at a lower price,” Singh said. “Even if around 10 houses are resold at such lower prices, property rates begin to drop.”

The society currently has 170 houses. Out of these, two were sold to Muslims in 2017 and another was leased out for 99 years to a member from the minority community.

Members have warned owners not to violate the Disturbed Areas Act as eight houses are currently up for sale.