Houses razed as India steps up crackdown to stop unrest

Published June 13, 2022
PRAYAGRAJ (India): Heavy equipment is being used on Sunday to demolish the house of a Muslim man accused by the Uttar Pradesh authorities of involvement in riots last week. The riots erupted following offensive comments by two members of India’s ruling BJP.—Reuters
PRAYAGRAJ (India): Heavy equipment is being used on Sunday to demolish the house of a Muslim man accused by the Uttar Pradesh authorities of involvement in riots last week. The riots erupted following offensive comments by two members of India’s ruling BJP.—Reuters

SRINAGAR: Authorities in India’s Uttar Pradesh state have demolished the homes of several people accused of involvement in riots last week triggered by derogatory remarks made by ruling party figures about the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), officials said on Sunday.

The offensive remarks have drawn condemnation from the Muslim world. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari discussed the issue with the secretary general of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Hissein Brahim Taha. Separately, Pakistan strongly condemned the heavy-handed treatment by the Indian authorities of Muslims who were registering a peaceful protest over the derogatory remarks.

In India-held Kashmir, police arrested a youth for posting a video threatening to behead the ruling party’s former spokeswoman who had made some of the remarks, officials said. The video, circulated on YouTube, has been withdrawn by authorities.

Muslims have taken to the streets across India in recent weeks to protest against the comments by two members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Clashes have broken out between Muslims and Hindus and in some cases between protesters and police in several areas. Police in Uttar Pradesh arrested more than 300 people in connection with the unrest.

One victim to move court against demolition; Bilawal discusses matter with OIC chief

Some in India’s minority Muslim community see the comments as the latest instance of pressure and humiliation under the BJP rule on issues ranging from freedom of worship to the wearing of hijab.

The BJP has suspended its spokeswoman Nupur Sharma and expelled another leader, Naveen Kumar Jindal, for the comments, which have also caused a diplomatic row with several Muslim countries.

Police have filed cases against the two and the government has said the comments do not reflect its views.

Muslim groups have demanded their arrest, while some hardline Hindu groups label them as brave and nationalist politicians.

Over the weekend the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, Yogi Adityanath, ordered officials to demolish any illegal establishments and homes of people accused of involvement in riots there last week, the BJP’s state spokesperson said.

The house of an alleged mastermind of the riots, whose daughter is a female Muslim rights activist, was demolished amid a heavy police presence on Sunday. Properties of two more people accused of throwing stones after Friday prayers were also demolished in the state.

Mrityunjay Kumar, Adityanath’s media adviser, tweeted a photo of a bulldozer demolishing a building and said, “Unruly elements remember, every Friday is followed by a Saturday.”

Meanwhile, India Today reported that Mohammed Javed, the main suspect in the Prayagraj city protests, will move the high court over what he called the illegal demolition of his house by the Uttar Pradesh government.

K.K. Rai, representing Javed, said they will file a petition against the illegal demolition carried out by the Uttar Pradesh government.

The state government, which named Javed as the main suspect in the Friday protests against offensive remarks, razed down his house on Sunday evening. Javed was arrested and booked under the Gangster Act.

“Prayagraj Development Authority never gave prior notice. Made the entire family homeless,” Rai added.

The notice that was served on Sunday morning stated that the property has illegal structures which were constructed without taking the requisite permits and hence, in violation of several building and planning regulations.

Opposition leaders said Adityanath’s government was pursuing an unconstitutional method to silence protesters.

On Sunday, Jindal said his family faced continuous threats and some of his followers said a crude bomb was defused near his residence in capital New Delhi.

Prime Minister Modi has so far not commented on the communal unrest.

In the eastern state of West Bengal, authorities enforced an emergency law prohibiting public gatherings in the industrial district of Howrah until June 16.

BJP’s West Bengal president on Sunday staged a sit-in protest and accused neighbouring Bangladesh of inciting violence in the state.

Last week countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Iran — which are key trade partners of India — lodged diplomatic protests to demand an apology from Modi’s government for the comments.

Bilawal talks to Taha

Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had a telephone conversation with OIC secretary general Hissein Brahim Taha on Sunday and they discussed the issue of rising Islamophobia.

In a tweet, the minister said the conversation focused on the series of Islamophobic actions in India, in particular blasphemous remarks made by two senior officials of BJP.

They shared concerns on rising Islamophobia and persecution of Muslims in India and the need to address that through collective efforts.—Agencies

Kashif Abbasi in Islamabad adds: The Foreign Office said that Pakistan strongly condemned the heavy-handed treatment by the Indian authorities of Muslim who were registering a peaceful protest over the derogatory remarks.

“The indiscriminate and widespread use of brute force by the Indian authorities across various states in India has resulted in killing of two innocent Muslim protesters and critically injured thirteen others in Ranchi city.

“The footage of Indian forces unabashedly opening fire on unarmed protesters in Ranchi city is horrific beyond belief. In Uttar Pradesh alone a total of 227 people have been arrested so far,” read an FO press release issued on Saturday night.

The FO said this is a new low in the Indian government’s repressive Hindutva-inspired majoritarian policy aimed at demonising and persecuting minorities, especially Muslims.

According to FO, Pakistan denounces this shameful treatment of Indian Muslim citizens by the Modi government and expresses its solidarity with the Muslims of India in these testing times.

It is alarming that despite the global condemnation of the blasphemous remarks, the Indian government’s reaction has been muted, while on the other hand the BJP-RSS regime has persisted in its Islamophobic actions and has shamefully chosen to handle public protest with brutal and indiscriminate use of force, the FO said. The Indian government’s apathy to the grievous situation and the vicious cycle of communal violence may lead to further marginalisation of the Indian Muslims.

“Pakistan once again strongly urges India to ensure that demonstrable action is taken against those responsible for making derogatory remarks and attacking the dignity of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH),” read the FO statement.

It urged the international community to take immediate cognisance of the grievously aggravating situation of Islamophobia in India. India must be held accountable for stifling the rights of the minorities, especially Muslims, and ensure that Muslims living in India are not victimised for practicing their faith and religious beliefs.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2022

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