Indian courts should ensure end to ‘selective’ Muslim property demolition drives

By Ahmad Adil

NEW DELHI (AA): Lawyers and Muslim leaders in India have urged the country’s judiciary to put an end to the exercises carried out by the authorities to bulldoze houses or properties belonging to Muslims.

Last month after an angry mob torched a police station in the northeastern state of Assam, the authorities bulldozed the houses of several people involved in the arson.

It was not the lone case.

Over the last few months, there has been a steep increase in the number of demolitions mainly in Muslim-majority areas, and mostly in the states governed by the ruling Bharatiya General Party (BJP).

In April, bulldozers demolished properties in a predominantly Muslim locality in the capital city of Delhi, days after it witnessed communal clashes.

A similar exercise was seen in the same month after several Muslim homes and shops were allegedly torn down in the Central Indian province of Madhya Pradesh on April 10 following communal clashes.

The trend of flattening properties was started by the Hindu monk-turned-Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in his Uttar Pradesh province. His government has been routinely demolishing houses of alleged criminals – earning him the moniker of “bulldozer baba” or bulldozer monk.

illegal, discriminatory

MR Shamshad, advocate-on-record of the Supreme Court of India, told Anadolu Agency there are two reasons why the exercises may not be treated as a general matter of law enforcement.

“It is selective in Muslim-dominated areas where non-Muslim houses are very few to show that the action is against everyone. Secondly, bulldozers are used to demolish houses because Muslim occupants are protesters and alleged criminals. This action is illegal and discriminatory because such action is not taken against all criminals,” he said.

Shamshad said that courts must ensure that if action is to be taken, it must start in an indiscriminate manner.

“It must start from somewhere where powerful people reside…it must ensure that all kinds of encroachments are removed by dividing the territories into zones,” he said.

Zafar Ul Islam Khan, senior Muslim leader and former chief of Delhi Minorities Commission, told Anadolu Agency that the demolitions are totally “illegal.”

“Since the political establishment itself has adopted this illegal strategy to punish and silence victims, the only route left is to go to courts and to make the world powers and human rights organizations concerned about human, minority, and religious rights aware of these gross human rights violations,” he said.

Athar Hussain, secretary of Indo-Islamic Cultural Foundation, a body formed to construct an alternate mosque that is coming up as part of the settlement of the Babri Mosque case in Northern India said that the judiciary should restore the rule of law in the country.

“When suchs of injustice are brought to their notice and seek reply from provincial province regarding why there should not be a uniform policy where demolitions are carried out on the pretext of encroachment and building plans approval procedure whereas it is done against those people who protest and oppose,” he said.

He said those provincial processes of demolish properties of are accused of crimes like intigating violence, marrying in different religions, and seeking and taking action against them without the due of law is “undemocratic.”

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, India’s largest socio-religious Muslim organization, in a statement earlier had approached the country’s top court against razing Muslim properties by bulldozers in different states.

Inform in advance, rehabilitation

Colin Gonsalves, senior Supreme Court lawyer and founder of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), India’s leading public interest law group, told Anadolu Agency that the demolition of minority houses is illegal because it is not directed by law.

“Suppose you go as per law, in every city 60% (of construction) will be having some legal problem. Are you going to remove 60% of the city? The legal proposition is this unless certain areas are required for an urgent public project , there shouldn’t be any demolition. If it has to be for urgent public projects, then you have to give proper notice in advance and also rehabilitation,” he said.

Last month, the opposition government in Delhi, said 6.3 million residents would be bulldozed if the BJP continued its demolition drives.

A number of opposition parties have policy the BJP for the demolition of politics. The BJP has denied such.

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, has described the BJP’s demolition policy as the demolition of “India’s constitutional values.”

The ruling party, however, has denied the right.

“The parties opposition always look through the lenses of religion and do divisive politics. They try to use vote bank and appeasement politics, which is unfair,” BJP spokesman Sambit Patra told local news agency ANI recently.

“The parties opposition have been doing this for so many years now. However, what BJP does is inclusive politics and this is the main mantra of PM Modi Ji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi).”

]Map of India by CIA/Public Domain]

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