India’s Supreme Court halts demolition drive in violence-ridden Delhi region | Court News

Indian authorities aboard bulldozers bulldozed a number of properties in a New Delhi neighborhood before the Supreme Court halted demolitions days after religious violence rocked the area and saw dozens of arrests.

On Wednesday morning, bulldozers demolished a string of roadside shops in Jahangirpuri as owners stared out of the windows of their homes, watching helplessly as their stalls were destroyed or swept away by trucks.

Hours into the drive under the protection of police and security forces, the Supreme Court suspended the demolition of properties in the residential area, about 25 km (14 miles) from the Indian Parliament.

Rahema, 30, cries after officials demolished her shop in Jahangirpuri, New Delhi [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, ordered that the status quo be maintained in the case until the next hearing, scheduled for Thursday.

The claimant in court said city officials failed to alert local shopkeepers ahead of the razing operation.

But for nearly an hour after the court order, authorities continued to demolish structures, including the exterior entrance and stairs leading to a mosque.

They stopped the bulldozers just outside the entrance to a Hindu temple, about 50 meters from the mosque, and began to retreat, sparking outrage from most Muslim residents who said they were targeted.

“They don’t want Muslims living in this country. Why? Are Muslims Terrorists? said Sabiran Bibi, 31, who has lived in the area all his life.

Demolition in India
Police and security forces oversee the demolition campaign in Jahangirpuri [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

Officials said their demolition campaign targeted illegal buildings, not any specific community.

But critics say it is the latest attempt to harass and marginalize Muslims, who make up 14% of India’s 1.4 billion people. They point to a pattern of growing religious polarization under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Raja Iqbal Singh, mayor of the BJP-governed North Delhi Municipal Corporation, said authorities were only destroying “illegal buildings that have encroached on roads”.

He added that the action had nothing to do with earlier violence but that some of the shops were owned by people accused of rioting.

The conduct occurred as Delhi’s northwest area was overrun by paramilitary forces in riot gear and comes after the city’s BJP leader Adesh Gupta urged the municipality to “take measures measures against illegal construction and encroachment by rioters,” he said in a tweet. Wednesday.

“I commend the company for moving quickly on this,” he said.

While authorities called it a “routine exercise”, Gupta’s call and the timing of the move – four days after violence erupted in the neighborhood – raised questions.

Demolition in India
Residents watch the demolition of properties in Jahangirpuri [Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters]

A similar demolition campaign was seen last week in the town of Khargone in the central state of Madhya Pradesh after a Hindu procession on April 10 to mark the birth anniversary of Lord Ram broke into the violence, with Hindu mobs wielding swords and clubs as they marched through Muslim neighborhoods and mosques.

Soon, groups from both communities began throwing stones at each other, according to police.

A day later, bulldozers razed about 50 buildings, including houses and shops, in five neighborhoods of Khargone. Many, but not all, were owned by Muslims, local media reported.

“The demolished buildings were illegal structures set up on encroaching land belonging to people from both communities,” Khargone District Collector P Anugraha told Al Jazeera last week.

This month, several homes and shops were demolished in Madhya Pradesh and West Gujarat state following violence on another Hindu festival day.

Both states are ruled by the BJP.

On Monday, the prominent Muslim organization Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind filed a petition with the Supreme Court “against the dangerous policy of bulldozers which were launched to destroy minorities, especially Muslims, under the guise of crime prevention in BJP-led states”.

“This type of so-called instant justice is similar to mob lynching,” Majeed Memon, a former parliamentarian and leading criminal lawyer, told Al Jazeera.

Comments are closed.