New Delhi, India – A prominent Muslim organization has lodged a plea in India’s highest court, asking for its intervention as the properties of mostly Muslims accused of violence are bulldozed by authorities in states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the dangerous policy of bulldozers that have started destroying minorities, especially Muslims, under the guise of crime prevention in BJP-ruled states,” said group chairman Arshad Madani. tweeted Monday.
The motion urges the Supreme Court to issue instructions to the federal and state governments that “no lasting hasty action be taken against any defendant in any criminal proceeding” and that residential buildings not be demolished as a punitive measure .
Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the dangerous policy of bulldozers which have started destroying minorities, especially Muslims, under the guise of crime prevention in BJP-ruled states. https://t.co/6Os0EnbA7A
—Arshad Madani (@ArshadMadani007) April 17, 2022
Last week, authorities in at least two states demolished dozens of homes and shops, almost all belonging to Muslims accused of violence during a Hindu festival.
In the central state of Madhya Pradesh, violence erupted during the Ram Navmi festival earlier this month.
Hindu devotees usually come out in grand processions on the day to celebrate the birth of their god Ram.
However, this year’s processions saw saffron-clad Hindu men carrying swords, clubs and guns as they marched through predominantly Muslim neighborhoods, shouting slogans threatening genocide of the community, playing loud music outside mosques and attacking homes and shops belonging to Muslims.
In some places, stones were thrown, leading to violence between the two communities, with both sides blaming the other for initiating it. At least two people died in the clashes.
In Khargone district, Madhya Pradesh, violence erupted after nearly 10 houses and a mosque were set on fire during the Ram Navmi procession, forcing police to impose a curfew. Violence was also reported in other Indian states during the festival.
A day later, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said “the rioters have been identified” while the state’s interior minister blamed Muslims for the violence.
“Those who threw stones will be punished, but at the same time they will have to pay for the losses suffered by public and private properties,” Chouhan said.
Acting on the orders of the head of state, authorities in Khargone used bulldozers to demolish nearly 50 properties – most belonging to Muslims accused of inciting violence.
Similar demolitions were also reported in Modi’s home state of Gujarat following violence on Ram Navmi.
Hindu Raksha Vahini has threatened to do Dharm Sansad in Bhagwan Pur, Roorkee if Muslims’ houses are not bulldozed. Communal violence erupted in Roorkee during the Hanuman Jayanti procession. This is happening in my hometown!! 1/2 pic.twitter.com/cSJxRu3NaX
— Arbab Ali (@arbabali_jmi) April 17, 2022
“The government of Madhya Pradesh is only demolishing the structures that have been erected on government land. And if anyone feels that the law has been violated, they are ready to go to court,” Madhya Pradesh BJP politician Rajneesh Agarwal told Al Jazeera on Monday.
But rights groups and legal experts have questioned the legality of the demolitions.
In a statement released last week, Amnesty International said the demolitions “constitute collective punishment” of the minority community and called for a “thorough, impartial and transparent investigation” into the matter.
In its petition to the Supreme Court, the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind said the policy of using bulldozers had been “started to destroy minorities, especially Muslims, under the guise of crime prevention in states ruled by the BJP”.
“Governments are doing what the courts used to do. It seems that the rule of law in India is over now,” the Muslim organization said in a statement.
An extremist Hindu preacher taunting his followers and asking them to bulldoze the homes of Muslims in India. pic.twitter.com/NyQexfN9pb
— HindutvaWatch (@HindutvaWatchIn) April 17, 2022
Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover said demolishing the property of a person accused of violence was “totally unconstitutional and illegal”.
“In fact, no law authorizes this kind of demolition. That person [accused] is a suspect at this point. The police or the administration act as judge, jury and executioner and punish the person,” she told Al Jazeera.
Majeed Memon, a former parliamentarian and leading criminal lawyer, agreed.
“Even assuming someone has committed a crime of rioting or any other crime, the chief minister or any of the people in the administration has no right to punish,” he said. at Al Jazeera.
Memon said a defendant should be brought before a court. “Ultimately, the nature and amount of the sentence will be decided by the court,” he said.
“This kind of so-called instant justice is similar to mob lynching.”
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Chouhan is popular in his state as “Mama” (maternal uncle).
However, he is now referred to as “Bulldozer Mama” by his followers – a play on “Bulldozer Baba” as his counterpart Yogi Adityanath calls in neighboring Uttar Pradesh.
The Adityanath government is accused of demolishing dozens of Muslim-owned homes and businesses in Uttar Pradesh in what activists have called ‘selective targeting’ of people accused by police of criminal activity .
“The houses of the poor were burnt down in Khargone. They shouldn’t worry because ‘Mama’ will build their houses. We will recover from those who burned their homes,” Chouhan was quoted by news agency ANI as saying during a rally in the state capital, Bhopal, on Thursday.
Last month, a billboard appeared in Bhopal that read, “Whoever dares to mess with the honor of sisters and daughters, the bulldozer will reach his door. Whoever tries to be a deterrent in girls’ safety, mom’s bulldozer will be the hammer.
In his statement, Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind called the demolitions a “cruel act”.
“It should be noted that bulldozer policy is already underway in Uttar Pradesh but now this infamous act has also started in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh,” he said.
New Delhi-based academic and activist Apoorvaanand said there was an “internal competition within the BJP” and its various chief ministers over “who is more vocal than the rest”.
“They [masses] want immediate justice. This is the basic instinct the BJP appeals to and they are destroying the very idea of law and justice,” he told Al Jazeera.
“It is the end of the rule of law that is most worrying.”
Kashif Kakvi contributed to this report from Madhya Pradesh, India