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Delhi: Anger Spills on Streets in Protest Against Sunday’s Bulldozer Demolition in Prayagraj

Ravi Kaushal |
The Constitution has been ripped apart, say citizens and several students, who were briefly detained by the police.
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New Delhi: After the brazen demolition action in Prayagraj (also known as Allahabad) on Sunday, students from different universities, along with ordinary citizens, protested at Jantar Mantar in the national capital to express their anguish at the “extra constitutional” move by the Uttar Pradesh government. The protesters maintained that municipal authorities were increasingly turning into courts, eager to deliver selective orders on the whims and fancies of the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state.

Some protesters, who were detained briefly, alleged that Delhi Police officials used brute action during their detention. Farhan Akhtar, a resident of Shaheen Bagh, alleged he was kicked in the stomach by jawans of the Rapid Action Force.

Talking to NewsClick, Akhtar said that he was chosen in a crowd of 150 odd protesters and was kicked and trashed with batons. “I was standing in the crowd when police officials came toward me and started dragging me. I fell on the road. When I protested, they started kicking in stomach. It is very clear that they chose me because I was wearing a kurta-pyjama and skull cap,” he alleged.

Akhtar said he had joined the protest to assert that such indiscriminate actions were endangering the rule of law. “Delhi University professor Ratan Lal was arrested at midnight on the basis of a tweet whereas authorities are yet to take action on the deplorable comments made by Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal against Prophet Mohammad. The comments clearly promote enmity between two communities,” he added.

Commenting on the demolition of a Muslim activist’s house in Prayagraj on Sunday, Akhtar said: “If this remains the attitude of the authorities, where you are not interested in listening to any argument, the please shut down the courts. Any person who loves this country would not tolerate this injustice. I am perturbed because the Constitution has been ripped apart.”

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A student from Jamia Millia Islamia, who requested anonymity, said “every aspect of our lives is under threat, be it food, clothing or mere gestures. “Umar Khalid is languishing in jail even when the court observed that his speech was not seditious. Who will return him his days of incarceration if he is declared innocent?” she said.

Narender Singh, who came along with his wife to participate in the protest, said he was asked to leave the protest site as an assembly was not allowed due to prohibitory orders. “If they think they can suppress our voices, they are wrong. We will carry our message in every part of the city. First they tried to demolish homes and shops in Jahangirpuri, then in Madhya Pradesh and now in Uttar Pradesh. These actions will lead to distrust among citizens and anarchy,” he told NewsClick.

Amid consistent sloganeering, Harendra Sheshma, an activist of Students’ Federation of India, said the distrust, where a citizen has no expectation of justice from the government, could lead to another Partition. “The Constitution has established certain procedure of law and that needs to be followed. Destroying someone’s house is not just when you did not even give Afreen Fatima (the activist) and her family a fair hearing.”

Afreen Fatima and he father Javed Mohammad, whose house was demolished on Sunday, played a crucial role in organising anti-citizenship amendment Act (CAA) protests in Prayagraj, earlier known as Allahabad. Prior to the demolition, the Prayagraj Development Authority had served notices about “illegal construction” to the family, which was in detention on Saturday and demolished home on Sunday.

Kanwaljit Kaur, an advocate who took part in the protest, told NewsClick that there were several judgements by high courts and the Supreme Court to be followed in cases of illegal construction and encroachment. “I think this is the first case where authorities did not follow these directives. In Olga Tellis versus Bombay Municipal Corporation, the court had said that a citizen cannot be deprived of his right to live a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution. This includes the right to shelter. Similarly, in Sudama Singh versus Delhi Government, the authorities need to provide alternative accommodation before taking such action. However, it is important for courts to take suo motu cognisance of cases for intervention before this is too late,” she said.

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