Musafir Hassan in New Delhi reports on the demolition of over 1,200 Muslim homes and buildings in India’s Haryana state following the recent anti-Muslim violence there perpetrated by Hindutva mobs.
Heart-rending scenes are unfolding in India which the world is yet to notice – the demolition of hundreds of homes belonging to innocent Muslims by state agencies for a “crime” they are born with. The crime of being a Muslim in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new India.
If you didn’t know, being a Muslim is a crime serious enough in the eyes of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state administrations to send in bulldozers to raze into rubble the modest homes of Muslims built with a lifetime of paltry savings.
But scenes of ululating women and children collapsing in grief and utter helplessness as their homes crumble always fail to move officials who are happy to oblige their political masters.
Nuh district in Haryana state is the latest example of the Hinduvta forces’ weaponisaton of demolition to punish and silence Muslims.
Nuh witnessed communal clashes early this month in which Muslims were ruthlessly attacked and targeted by hardline Hinduvta groups. Six people died in the violence, including two home guards and an imam of a local mosque. Clashes erupted after the Hindu hardline Vishva Hindu Parishad’s Brij Mandal Jalabhishek Yatra rally was disrupted after stone pelting by a group of people on July 31.
As if the Hindutva forces’ depredations and systemic targeting of Muslims in Nuh were not enough, the authorities unleashed their own campaign by launching a demolition drive of Muslim homes.
According to Indian media, 1,208 buildings and other structures (overwhelmingly Muslim-owned) were demolished by the Haryana administration.
“One district. 11 towns and hamlets. Five days. 1,208 buildings and other structures — overwhelmingly Muslim-owned. 37 sites. 72.1 acres. That’s the demolition track record of the Haryana government in Nuh district following communal violence in the region in which six people were killed and 88 injured,” India’s leading English daily Hindustan Times reported.
The daily said that in every location its reporters visited, destroyed properties were found to be owned by Muslims and the number would have been significantly higher if the High Court hadn’t intervened to stop the demolitions.
Alarmed at the inhumaneness of the demolition, the Punjab & Haryana High Court on August 7 asked the state if it was indulging in “ethnic cleansing” given the one-sidedness of the demolitions and issued a stay order. That a high court had to use such a term as “ethnic cleansing” points to the seriousness of the situation.
Yet the demolition drive was undertaken with glee by the BJP-run administration, in which a large number of departments were marshalled for efficiency and speed.
“Jawahar Yadav, officer on special duty (OSD) to Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, said that officials from the town and country planning department, Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran (HSVP), police department, forest department and local panchayats were involved in identifying the properties that needed to be demolished,” the Hindustan Times report said.
Liyakat Ali, who owns a tiles showroom in Kherli Kankar village, said a demolition notice was posted a few minutes before his outlet was demolished. He said his property was perfectly legal with a registration number and he had been running it for six years without any hindrance from the authorities.
“Is it OKAY in democratic and constitutionally governed India to bulldoze (only Muslim) citizens’ homes and shops …. without INVESTIGATION? without IDENTIFICTION? without NOTICE?” asked Sudheendra Kulkarni, a socio-political activist and columnist, in a tweet.
Kulkarni was responding to another tweet that spoke of over 150 migrant families from Assam and West Bengal (all rag pickers) grieving losing their homes to the government’s “bulldozer justice,” citing youths’ involvement in stone pelting during the recent violence at Nuh district in Haryana state.
“The bulldozing of Muslim homes – it marks a moment in time where you are seeing a transition from a sort of fragile, flawed democracy… into a criminal Hindu fascist enterprise,” Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy recently said in an interview with Al Jazeera channel.
So in a nutshell, the BJP-ruled state governments in India, especially Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, have been using arbitrary and illegal demolitions of Muslim homes, without judicial process, as a collective punishment, for alleged participation in riots.
It was the Uttar Pradesh government under the chief minister Yogi Adityanath which first used this illegal practice with chilling regularity, which was cheered on by the Hindutva forces and the pliant media.
“…. smashing homes marks the acceleration of the Hindu Rashtra project. It will further change the character of State agencies. Political philosopher Hannah Arendt said anti-Semitism climaxed once the Jews had lost their public influence; when even their wealth served no visible function in society. In contemporary India, Muslims are made powerless and isolated from the democratic collective. This makes the series of demolitions a collective punishment of the community, but there is more,” wrote Himanshu Shukla in Newsclick.
Musafir Hassan is a pen name for a senior Indian Muslim activist. We have had to change his name because of the systematic targeting of Muslim journalists in India.