Authorities halt a demolition campaign in a Muslim-majority area at the center of citizen protests after hundreds gathered to protest.
New Delhi authorities halted a demolition campaign in Shaheen Bagh, a Muslim-majority neighborhood at the center of the 2019-20 citizen protests, after hundreds of residents and several opposition party workers gathered to protest.
No buildings were demolished before the bulldozers left on Monday.
The demolition campaign planned by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, which is governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was the latest in a series of demolition campaigns that have razed Muslim properties in various Indian states.
Critics say the demolition of Muslim-owned properties and houses in anti-invasion campaign garb is part of the ruling BJP’s majority agenda.
As the bulldozers drove away, Mohammed Niyaz, a 47-year-old neighborhood resident, called it a “vote bank policy” aimed at dividing the Hindu and Muslim communities.
“They (the government) want to cause us trouble and keep them (Hindus) happy. It’s as simple as that. Concern 20 percent of the people and take the 80 percent vote. It is the policy of the vote bank,” he told the Associated Press.
Rising anti-Muslim sentiment
Anti-Muslim sentiment and attacks have increased across India in the past month after Hindu processions were taken from Muslim areas and in some cases mosques were attacked, resulting in stone-throwing between Hindu and Muslim groups.
Few state governments headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP have carried out demolition units after communal violence. Critics say local authorities in those states have singled out Muslim-owned properties, but the BJP says it is following the laws.
The most recent was witnessed last month in the Jahangirpuri area of New Delhi, where bulldozers destroyed several Muslim properties before the High Court halted the advance.
The demolitions were carried out days after the communal violence left several injured and caused arrests.
Amid a heavy police presence on Monday, bulldozers reached Shaheen Bagh, a neighborhood that in 2020 became a site of intense protests after Parliament passed a controversial bill the previous year amending the Shaheen Bagh’s citizenship law. country.
the bulldozers arrive #ShaheenBagh conduct a campaign against the invasion; The Delhi Police will provide security in the area.
— Express Delhi-NCR 😷 (@ieDelhi) May 9, 2022
The new law would be expedited naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Muslim countries, but excludes Muslims, prompting many to call it discriminatory.
It sparked months of demonstrations across India and Shaheen Bagh quickly became a symbol of resistance, with the protests spearheaded by a peaceful sit-in by Muslim women along a road through the neighborhood.
Authorities have said that these demolition campaigns target illegal buildings and not any particular religious group.
But critics argue that such moves are the latest attempt to harass and marginalize Muslims, who make up 14 percent of India’s 1.4 billion people, and point to a pattern of growing religious polarization and majority rule under the nationalist BJP. Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Shaheen Bagh residents also questioned the timing of the move to bring in bulldozers, saying many buildings in the neighborhood have existed for decades without interference from local authorities.
Officials previously called recent demolition campaigns “routine exercises” to tear down illegal properties.