Hindutva bulldozer justice

ByFahad Ali

Associated with maritime trade


July 24, 2022

Hindutva bulldozer justice

Fahad Ali looks at travesty of justice

Hindutva bulldozer justice is reigning supreme in India and is spreading it tentacles far and wide. It is more than obvious that the increasing writ of Hindutva is almost becoming unchallengeable for the primary reason that it performs under the aegis of state machinery. It also appears that the Hindutva-influenced policies followed by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are bent upon crushing the minority communities, particularly Muslims, through application of the coercive powers of the state and as is reported lately that the state apparatus has been instructed to do the needful. The recent development has taken place in respect of the fresh arrests regarding killing of a Hindu tailor in Rajasthan who was known for injuring the religious sentiments of Muslims by casting aspersions on the revered personalities of Islam. The victim, Kanhaiya Lal Teli, had allegedly put up a social media post supporting Nupur Sharma, former spokesperson for Narendra Modi’s party who made anti-Islam comments that stoked unease between Hindus and Muslims.

This development is the latest in a series of state coercion perpetrated by the Indian Muslims as they are also subjected to bulldozer justice whereby scores of dwellings and businesses have been flattened by wrecking crews in a campaign authorities have promoted by turns as a battle against illegal construction and a firm response to criminal activity. However, rights groups have condemned this despicable bulldozer justice as an unlawful exercise in collective punishment by India’s Hindu nationalist government and many of the campaign’s victims have one thing in common that they are invariably Muslims. In this connection it was mentioned that a bulldozer demolished the house of Javed Mohammad, a local leader who was allegedly involved in the recent violent protests against BJP’s former spokeswoman Nupur Sharma’s incendiary remarks about the Prophet (pbuh) in Allahabad.

Moreover, after two nights in police custody, Indian teenager Somaiya Fatima was released in time to watch live footage of an excavator claw smashing into the walls of her childhood home. The 19-year-old was arrested along with her family after her father was accused of masterminding a large public protest in the northern city of Allahabad last month. It was one of several rallies across India last month condemning a ruling party spokeswoman whose provocative comments about the Prophet (pbuh) during a televised debate sparked anger across the Muslim world. The day Fatima was released she was sitting in a relative’s living room when she came across footage of her home’s destruction on her phone. She said the demolition was a lesson for Muslims tempted to speak up against the government and that they have instilled fear in an entire community as now everyone now looks at their home and thinks that if it happened to us, it can happen to them also.

Fatima’s home state of Uttar Pradesh is governed by Yogi Adityanath, a saffron-robed Hindu monk seen as a potential successor to Narendra Modi. In office, he has championed the bulldozer as a symbol of his commitment to law and order and as a potential tool to use against trouble-makers. Adityanath’s acolytes celebrated his successful campaign for re-election as chief minister earlier this year by riding on top of excavators while bulldozer tattoos became a minor craze among supporters of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Since then bulldozer politics have spread elsewhere in the country and demolition campaigns have begun quickly following on the heels of outbreaks of religious unrest.

After a violent confrontation in April between Hindus trailing a religious procession and Muslims holding Ramzan prayers, authorities in Delhi knocked down nearly two dozen Muslim shop-fronts and the facade of a mosque, defying a court order to stop. Officials simply toed the official line and stated that the spate of demolitions is lawful as they only target buildings constructed without legal approval. But victims of the campaign deny that their dwellings are illegal and say they are not given the legally required notice period to dispute demolition orders. The houses were demolished in the presence of hundreds of police and hundreds of cameras with no empathy indicating that such actions have no comparison for this ruthlessness. It is pointed out by many observers that the government’s campaign is the latest manifestation of the BJP’s discriminatory policies towards India’s 200 million-strong Muslim minority community. It is added that they have an ideological commitment that in India they have to make Muslims a second-class citizen, socially humiliate them and destroy their property.

This observation is echoed by the Amnesty International that stated that the demolitions were part of a selective and vicious crackdown on Indian Muslims who dared to speak up against the discrimination they faced. Many Muslims living in Uttar Pradesh now fear their own homes are being earmarked for destruction after their family members participated in last month’s protests. Muslims now are subjected to sleepless nights and restless days and many are fearful as they have received orders to vacate their houses as they were found participating in a demonstration. Residents of many residential areas lie under constant fears as bulldozers remain parked outside the police stations near their homes. The pile of bricks and concrete in its stead has heightened their own sense of belonging to a pariah community.

In recent years bulldozers have become a weapon in the hands of Hindutva-driven BJP government to destroy homes and livelihoods of the minority Muslim community and nowhere are these excavators more visible than in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh state. Many observers mention that the real reason behind the demolition had nothing to do with the alleged illegality of the buildings and that people are being punished for being a vocal critic of the government. The demolitions have been criticised everywhere and have made headlines globally. This despicable action has even been criticised in India where in a rare move, former judges and eminent lawyer wrote to India’s chief justice saying the use of bulldozers was an unacceptable subversion of the rule of law and urged the court to act against the violence and repression against Muslim citizens.

It is also pointed out that using bulldozer as a symbol of firm administration the BJP government has now turned bulldozers into a potent weapon, overriding the law of the land and using it to cement its hate politics against Muslims. They mention that this is how a local toughie behaves and it is like saying that you throw a stone at me; I will demolish your home and will teach a lesson to your entire family. But the law of the land does not allow one to run a bulldozer on anyone’s property. If a family member commits a murder, can one hang an entire family for that and it is simply tantamount to a government acting as a prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.

Intriguingly, the use of bulldozers may have resulted in a global outcry but it has brought immense political mileage to Yogi Adityanath and even won approval from Narendra Modi. Interestingly, during a visit to Uttar Pradesh Modi had stated that when the bulldozer runs over the mafia, it runs over the illegal building but the person who is nurturing it also feels the pain. Following the prime minister’s remarks, bulldozers have been used in the aftermath of religious violence earlier in the year in the state of Madhya Pradesh and in the capital, Delhi, disproportionately targeting Muslims by destroying their homes, shops and small businesses. TW

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