Bulldozer-mounted Indian authorities razed several properties in a New Delhi neighborhood before the High Court halted the demolitions days later. religious violence shook the area and saw dozens of detainees.
On Wednesday morning, bulldozers demolished a number of roadside shops in Jahangirpuri as owners watched from their home windows, watching helplessly as their stalls were either vandalized or trucked away.
A couple of hours after the march began under the protection of police and security forces, the Supreme Court suspended the demolition of properties in the residential area, about 25 kilometers (14 miles) from the Indian Parliament.
A three-judge bench of the high court, led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, ordered the status quo in the case to stand until the next hearing, scheduled for Thursday.
The petitioner in court said that the municipal authorities had not alerted the local merchants before the demolition operation.
But for nearly an hour after the high court order, officials 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 withdraw, drawing outrage from mostly Muslim residents who said they were under attack.
“They don’t want Muslims to live in this country. Why? Are Muslims terrorists? said Sabiran Bibi, 31, who has lived in the area his entire life.
Authorities said their demolition campaign is targeting illegal buildings and not a particular community.
But critics argue that this is the latest attempt to harass and marginalize Muslims, who make up 14 percent 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-ruled North Delhi Municipal Corporation, said authorities were pulling down only “illegal buildings that have encroached on roads”.
He added that the action had nothing to do with the previous violence, but that some of the stores belonged to people accused of rioting.
CPI(M) leader, Brinda Karat, stood in front of a JCB to stop the demolition campaign in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri at 12:10 pm The ride continued until 12:15 despite SC asking MCD to maintain the status quo around 11 am Action a few days after the communal clashes on April 16. @TheQuint @quinthindi pic.twitter.com/JLH8RcvprZ
— Eshwar (@hey_eshwar) April 20, 2022
The drive occurred as the area in northwest Delhi was overrun by paramilitary forces in riot gear and comes after the city’s BJP chief Adesh Gupta urged the municipal corporation to “take action on illegal construction and the invasion of the rioters,” he said in a tweet. On Wednesday.
“I commend the corporation for taking swift action on this,” he said.
While authorities have called it a “routine exercise,” Gupta’s call and the timing of the move, four days after violence erupted in the neighborhood, have raised questions.
A similar demolition campaign was seen last week in the city of Khargone, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, after a Hindu procession on April 10 to mark Lord Ram’s birth anniversary. erupted into violencewith Hindu mobs brandishing swords and clubs as they marched past Muslim neighborhoods and mosques.
Soon, groups from both communities began throwing rocks at each other, according to police.
A day later, bulldozers flattened some 50 buildings, including homes and shops, in five areas of Khargone. Many, though not all, of them belonged to Muslims, local media reported.
“The demolished buildings were illegal structures set up on invaded land belonging to people from both communities,” Khargone District Collector P Anugraha told Al Jazeera last week.
This month, several houses and shops were demolished in Madhya Pradesh and the western state of Gujarat as a result of violence on the day of another Hindu festival.
Both states are governed by the BJP.
On Monday, the prominent Muslim organization Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind filed a petition in the Supreme Court “against the dangerous bulldozer policies that have begun to destroy minorities, especially Muslims, under the guise of crime prevention in BJP-ruled states.”
“This kind of so-called instant justice is similar to mob lynching,” Majeed Memon, a former parliamentarian and leading criminal lawyer, told Al Jazeera on Monday.