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Prayagraj: Did Due Process Go for a Toss in Razing of Muslim Activist’s House?

Tarique Anwar |
The back-dated demolition notice was served in the name of Javed Mohammad, even though the house not only belonged to his wife, but in fact, the land it stood on was her ancestral property — with Javed having no legal stake in it.

Prayagraj (Uttar Pradesh)/New Delhi: After Kanpur and Saharanpur, ‘bulldozer justice’ was meted out in Prayagraj on June 12 in the presence of a massive police force. The house of Javed Mohammad, a leader of the Welfare Party of India and prominent face of the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protest, at JK Ashiana Colony located in Kareli locality of the district's old city area was razed to the ground.

Javed has been accused by the Uttar Pradesh Police of being one of the “main conspirators” behind mobilising protests in Prayagraj after Friday prayers. The June 10 protest over the offensive remarks made against Prophet Muhammad by suspended ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nupur Sharma resulted in violence at Prayagraj’s Atala locality.

After being detained, Javed was arrested on June 11. The police also detained his wife and younger daughter. His elder daughter Afreen Fatima, a former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student, claimed that the police came without a warrant to arrest him.


The Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) had pasted a notice on June 11 night to vacate the premises warning of an impending demolition at his house in Kareli, she said.

Signed by the joint secretary/zonal officer of the PDA, the notice dated June 10, said the house had been constructed in violation of the set norms under the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Ordinance, 1973 and without permission of the PDA.

Citing "illegal constructions" on 25x60 feet ground floor and the first floor, the notice also mentioned that a show-cause notice had been served on the owner of the house on May 10, and date of hearing was fixed for May 25, but neither the owner nor his representative lawyer appeared in the hearing.


Demolition notice served to Javed Mohammad

The notice further said a demolition order was passed on May 25, and the property owner Javed Mohammad was ordered to undertake the demolition himself and inform by June 9. But no action was taken by him. It had asked Javed to vacate the house by 11 a.m on June 12 so that the building could be demolished.


The back-dated notice was served in the name of Javed Mohammad, even though the house not only belonged to his wife, but in fact, the land it stood on was her ancestral property — with Javed having no legal stake in it.


The notice also mentioned serving of prior notice on May 10, a hearing on May 24 and demolition orders passed on May 25, without mentioning the details, circular number or order number of any of these.


“We were not served any notice earlier and are totally unaware of any such proceedings. The fact that the notice was not even delivered in the name of the actual property holder makes its authenticity highly dubious, as even basic proceedings would have uncovered this fact,” Afreen told NewsClick.

Further, the notice was dated June 10 but pasted only late on June 11 night (Saturday), even though the police have continuously been present at the house since June 10.

“The notice was hastily issued on a weekend night to ensure that we have no opportunity for legal recourse as proceedings before a court might uncover the many factual inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the notice, highlighting the fact that this is nothing more than a vindictive operation designed to punish a questioning voice,” she alleged.


Reacting to the allegation, a PDA official said action had been taken "in accordance with the law". "The owner of the property was served a notice on May 10 and directed to appear before the authority by May 24 for a hearing, but the notice was not complied with. As a result, a demolition order was passed and acted upon today," he added.

When pointed out that the notice the PDA is referring to was issued to Javed, but his wife is the legal owner of the property and municipal corporation receipts confirm the same, he chose not to reply and hung up the call.

When sought to comment on which legal basis the demolition was carried out at this stage, UP Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar told NDTV, "The police did not do it; it was the development authority which carried out the demolition. The police were there only for the maintenance of law and order."

Asked if the police are meant to ensure that what actions being taken are initiated legally, he said, "That must have been ensured by the development authority. The development authority officers were there. They must have followed the due procedure. A notice was already pasted, and they (the property owners) had been told what is legal and what is illegal in their construction. We were there only for the maintenance of law and order."

When asked about the family’s allegation and technical errors in the notice, he said he was not the competent person to comment on it.


Amid the demolition drive in Prayagraj, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor targeted the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government, asking if the state has exempted itself from the Constitution of India.

Sharing a video of Afreen in which she said the police had detained her family members and threatened to destroy her house, the Thiruvananthapuram MP tweeted: “Shocked to receive this from JNU with the update that the family’s home has been demolished.”


He further said, “Due process of law is fundamental to democracy. Under what law and following what process has this been done? Has UP exempted itself from the Constitution of India?”


Protests had erupted in several cities across the country after the Friday prayers on June 10 over comments made by two BJP leaders, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal, against Prophet Mohammed, leading to violence, arson and stone-pelting in several places. Six UP districts also witnessed violent protests that day.

A total of 306 people have so far been arrested from several towns in the state in connection with 13 FIRs, Kumar said. “So far, we have arrested 306 people in 13 FIRs,” he added.

He said, "At least 13 policemen have suffered injuries, and there have been damages to public and private properties."

He said the police action (arrests) was based on video and photo evidence they had gathered. “It has been made clear by the government that no innocent person should be arrested and no guilty should be spared. So, we are following it,” he said.

Asked if they are going to invoke the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act, 2020, he said, “Yes, of course. In fact, a notice in this regard has also been issued across the state where the violence has taken place. Tribunals have already been formed at three places — Prayagrag, Lucknow and Meerut — to assess the individual role of the accused before attaching their properties. We will follow the due procedure and produce the evidence before the judicial officer to take cognisance."


Recall that the Supreme Court, when the law was invoked against anti-CAA protesters, had said the UP government acted as a complainant, an adjudicator and a prosecutor in the proceedings. It acted contrary to the roles laid down by the court. And therefore, those cases could not proceed.

Reminded by NDTV of the SC ruling and asked if he was wary of going ahead with this very controversial law, he said: “We have complied with the Honourable Supreme Court’s order. The government has formed tribunals where judicial officers will try all these cases. After following the due procedure, we will go ahead.”


Video clips have emerged online, showing policemen mercilessly beating up people in custody. One such video was first tweeted by an MLA of the ruling party.

Asked by NDTV if this was not extra-judicial action on the part of the police, Kumar said: "We don't subscribe to such things. We are investigating it. In case it is found to be true, we will take action against the erring police officials."

Asked how was it not true when the video was so clear, and if he was suggesting that the video was fake, he said one should not to be “judgmental”. "I have already said we don't subscribe to such action, and we are examining it. If we find our officers have done wrong, we will take action against them," he said.

Further asked if any FIR had been registered after the video went viral on social media, Kumar reiterated: “It is being enquired. If it is found to be true, we will definitely follow the due procedure.”

Once again questioned if there was any doubt about the video when it was quite clear that it was from UP, and even the MLA who had posted it was suggesting so, Kumar said: "I have already told you that it is in our knowledge, and we are examining it. It's there on social media. Few people in the video are not from the state. It is simply showing that it is happening. We have taken it very seriously, and we are examining it. We will take action following an enquiry."

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