Conflicts & War

Razed to Dust: Indian Muslims battle house demolitions after protests

By Sarwar Kashani |

Srinagar, India, June 16 (EFE).- India’s top court Thursday refused to stop the government from bulldozing houses after the authorities razed several homes of Muslims in an alleged retaliatory action against the minority community for holding violent protests.

“We cannot stay demolitions,” the court said, hearing a petition by a Muslim group against bringing down illegally constructed residential complexes.

“Demolitions have to be in accordance with law, they cannot be retaliatory. We can say go in accordance with law,” the court told the government in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Muslim bodies and rights defenders have criticized the government’s move, alleging the authorities were punishing the minority community and creating a fear psychosis by robbing them of their homes.

The critics see it as part of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) actions targeting the minority Muslim community in the Hindu-majority nation.

Rights watchdogs allege that attacks and hate speech against Muslims have surged since the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in India in 2014.

The party has also governed Uttar Pradesh since 2017, with saffron-robed controversial Hindu monk Yogi Adityanath heading the government in the most populous Indian state.

Over the weekend, the Uttar Pradesh police drove earth diggers into a Muslim-majority neighborhood of Prayagraj, previously called Allahabad.

As the giant machines moved their blades and rippers to bring down homes and dreams, house owners watched in terror with horror-stricken faces fading in the clouds of dust from the fallen concrete.

The homeowners were alleged to have participated in protests on Friday over derogatory remarks by now-ousted two BJP spokespersons against the Prophet Muhammad – the most revered figure in Islam.

Among the houses reduced to rubble was a two-story pale yellow construction in the byzantine lanes belonging to outspoken Muslim woman activist Afreen Fatima, 24.

The building was home to Fatima, her siblings, and their parents for over two decades.

Police allege that her father Javaid Ahmad, a prominent politician-activist in the region, was the “mastermind” of the protests to demand the arrest of the BJP leaders who had made anti-Islam inflammatory remarks.

But Fatima denied the charges and government allegations that the house was constructed illegally, saying the administration was using it as an alibi to “terrorize Muslims.”

“Muslims do not have to do anything. Even if there was no protest in Allahabad, I am sure my father would have been incriminated, given the fact that he is someone who was acknowledging the rising intolerance in Allahabad city,” Fatima said in an online viral video.

She said the Hindu nationalist government and its supporters were “deriving pleasure by punishing Muslims.”

“It is a fetish of sorts to see Muslim houses crumbling, to see Muslims going to jails, to see Muslims being demonized on national television day in and day out. That is their idea of fun,” said Fatima.

“(But) we are not going to shed a single tear. The Muslim community…is strong. We will survive whatever will come.”

The latest in a series of communal riots gripping much of northern and eastern India has left two teenagers dead in the city of Ranchi in Jharkhand state.

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