2022: A Year of the ‘Bulldozer Injustice’
The ideology behind demolishing homes of miscreants is ‘an eye for an eye’ but bulldozer injustice is leagues ahead since at the receiving end are people from marginalised communities and they stand to lose their homes over political vendetta. While these demolitions are posed as lawful demolitions of encroachments on government land or illegal constructions, the timing and targets of these demolitions have a different story to tell.
Here's a look at how the political class used this infamous ‘bulldozer injustice’ and has glorified it for other states to follow in tow. It was mainly pioneered by Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh followed by Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi as well. For this, the UP Chief Minister has famously earned the moniker “Bulldozer Baba” and he is hailed across party lines for the same.
What has become all the more apparent is that members of the minority Muslim community from economically week backgrounds are the main target of the administration. The same is demonstrated in the following incidents of bulldozer injustice through the year 2022.
On April 20, municipal authorities demolished the entrance gate of a mosque in Jahangirpuri. This is merely an hour Supreme Court ordered to halt demolitions in that area. On April 16, communal violence had erupted after a Bajrang Dal procession on the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti was passing by and clashed with the Muslims as it was going past the mosque. In complete media glare, the bulldozer demolished the mosque gate, despite being made aware of the court’s orders.
On August 2, 2022 the Delhi High Court observed that persons cannot be evicted with a bulldozer at their doorstep “early in the morning or late in the evening” without any notice, rendering them completely shelter less. The plea was filed by Shakarpur Slum Union stating that the 3-day demolition drive conducted without any prior notice by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) officials in the area, demolished around 300 of the huts and shanties. Justice Subramonium Prasad disposed of the writ petition with a direction to the DDA to carry out further demolition only in consultation with the DUSIB. The Court further directed the DDA to give sufficient time to the residents to make alternate arrangements, or, steps should be taken to accommodate the dwellers in the shelters provided by the DUSIB for three months so that the persons, whose jhuggis are being demolished, are able to find some alternate accommodation.
On July 6, 2022 the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) bulldozed over 60 tenements in Gyaspur Basti opposite Sarai Kale Khan, Nizamuddin East, New Delhi. The DDA demolished even the anganwadis but spared a gaushala (cow shelter)! Residents say they have identity documents that make them eligible for staying put in their homes until proper provisions for resettlement are made for them. However, their documents were deemed irrelevant by the DDA authorities who claimed the land of the basti belonged to their department. Therefore, on June 27 the DDA with the Delhi Police carried out demolitions, allegedly without the legally-mandated four weeks’ notice to residents.
On March 31, 2022 UP police brought a bulldozer to the house of two rape accused, Amir and Asif to compel them to surrender. The police claimed that the bulldozer was necessary to conduct the raid to prevent he accused from escaping and stated that the staircase in the house was partly damaged in this exercise. This was admitted by UP Police before the Supreme Court, in an affidavit filed as a counter to the plea filed by Islamic cleric body Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind against such unlawful demolitions.
On April 13, 2022 Rampur district police ordered an inquiry into the demolition of the house of a murder accused. When UP saw spate of clashes in June over BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s remarks about the prophet, UP administration sprang into action as directed by the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. IN Sahranpur, SSP Akash Tomar admitted that properties of two accused, Abbdul Wakir and Muzammil were demolished.
On June 13, Prayagraj Development Authority demolished Javed Mohammad’s (Alias Javed Pump) house, who was deemed to be the “mastermind” behind the violence of June 10. In July, the Supreme Court refused to pass blanket orders against the demolitions and while issuing notice to the UP government warned that "demolitions have to be in accordance with law and they cannot be retaliatory".
On December 10, the home of declared terrorist Ashiq Nengroo, who is allegedly a commander of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, was demolished. His home in Pulwama, New Colony was allegedly built on government land.
On April 10, Khargone in Mahdya Pradesh saw stone-pelting and arson during Ram Navami processions in which around 80 persons were arrested. Indore Divisional Commissioner Pawan Sharma told The Hindu that 45 homes were demolished of those accused of the violence. He said that their homes were encroaching on public land and the idea was to instil fear of financial loss among the accused.
On March 22, the Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan had said “Mama’s [pointing to himself] bulldozer has set off and will not stop unless wrongdoers are not entirely destroyed.” While on a visit to Raisen where a tribal youth died in a fight between two communities. Soon after, Chauhan reportedly ordered the demolition of the houses of people accused of starting the fight.
On the same day, the homes of three Muslim men accused in a case of gangrape in Sheopur, were demolished. “Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan directed the Sheopur administration to take punitive action against the accused involved in the gangrape of a minor girl. Their houses were demolished in police presence,” a government statement said, reported The Wire.
On March 28, illegal portions of a shopping complex of Sanjay Tripathi, accused of raping a 17-year-old girl, were demolished on the orders of the CM, reported DNA.
In September, civic authorities in Banmore town, Morena district demolished the house of a daily wage worker, Girraj Rajak, accused of raping a 3-year-old, saying that it was an “illegal construction”. Similarly, the ‘illegal house’ of a school bus driver was razed down in Bhopal as he was accused of sexually abusing a 3 year old girl, as she was returning home in the school bus.
In October, eviction notices were posted outside homes of person accused of pelting stones at a Garba pandal. Within 24 hours, homes of Abdul Gaffar Pathan, Abdul Rasheed, Amjad Pathan, Faiz Mohammad Pathan and Riyaz Pathan, residents of Surjani village were razed to the ground. In addition to the ‘Bedakhli’ order, the Sitamau Naib Tehsildar court also imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on each family for allegedly building a pakka house encroaching government lands.
On April 10, stones were allegedly pelted in Khambat town in Anand District during Ram Navmi procession. In retaliation, the District Collector ordered demolition of “illegal structures standing on government land” many of which belonged to persons accused in the clashes.
On April 21, Surat Municipal Corporation together with police, demolished properties belonging to alleged gangster brothers Aarif and Sajju Kothari.
In October, around 100 structures were demolished on Bet Dwarka island with a population of around 10,000 and majority of whom belong to Muslim community. It is known for Dwarkadhish Mukhya Mandir, a Lord Krishna shrine. Among the demolished structures, 33 belong to religious sects, reported New Indian Express.
In November, 300 houses, huts and godowns were demolished in Jakhau harbour in Kutch district deeming them to be illegal. Since the demolitions, fishermen and traders have set up makeshift homes and makeshift cold storages with tarpaulins and bamboo roofs and are determined not to leave the area until the government offers a suitable alternative arrangement, reported Economic Times. A fish trader, told the publication that razing homes with bulldozers was more a symbolic action than an administrative decision.
In May, Assam police demolished eight houses in Shalnabari, Haidubi and Jamtal belonging to people from these villages who were accused of attacking a police station, beating up cops and setting vehicles on fire in protest against a custodial death. On May 21, Batdwara police station in Assam’s Nagaon district was set on fire by some people after Shafiqul Islam, a youth from Shalnabari, died in police custody, reported News18. On November 20, the Gauhati High Court reprimanded the Assam Superintendent of Police for bulldozing the homes of the five arson accused “under the guise of investigation”. The bench led by Chief Justice RM Chhaya and comprising Justice Soumitra Saikia questioned how the police demolished the house without permission and took suo moto cognizance [In Re State of Assam and others, PIL (Suo Moto)/3/2022] of the matter.
On July 12, Dibrugarh district administration demolished the residence of Baidulla Khan, who was the main accused in the suicide case of animal rights activist Vineet Bagaria.
In July, 90 houses in Karimganj’s Patharkandi town were demolished during an anti-encroachment drive. The Print reported that it was a Muslim dominated area and the residents told the publication that they have valid documents for the land.
In September, the Assam government cleared 1,000 bighas of land for setting up a 100MW solar plant, displacing 299 families (243 Muslim and 56 Hindus) who were staying on the encroached government land at Chitalmari 3 village under Borcolla constituency. The eviction notices were served around 8 months ago as well as 2 days prior to the eviction, as per one of the residents, reported The Telegraph. The administration dismantled a temporary madrassa and requested the residents to remove two masjids, which were accordingly removed.
The state which is governed by the BJP and JD(U) in coalition, has the BJP rooting for the bulldozer action while the JD(U) maintaining its reservations about the same. In April, Bihar revenue and land reforms minister Ram Surat Rai (BJP) had said that bulldozer drive will be launched against absconding criminals and those encroaching the state government’s land. On the other hand, senior JD(U) leader Upendra Kushwaha said that Bihar doesn’t require a bulldozer model as the “Nitish Kumar model of governance is best”.
On November 30, Patna High Court pulled up the Police for illegally demolishing a man’s house and commented, “it appears that all the officials are hand in gloves with some land mafia and they have illegally demolished the house of the petitioner without following the due process of law”. The judge orally commented that he will give an order where the police officials responsible for this will have to pay compensation to the petitioner out of their own pockets.
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