UP: Journalist, Lawyer to Approach Court Over House Demolition, Scribe Says ‘Razed Without Notice’
A Prayagraj Development Authority bulldozer demolishes Arms shopkeeper Safdar Ali's properties in the Chakiya area, in Prayagraj, Thursday, March 2, 2023. Ali is said to be a close aid of Atiq Ahmad. Image Courtesy: PTI
Lucknow: Zafar Ahmad Khan, a senior journalist with a news agency based in Uttar Pradesh's Banda claimed that he was not given prior notice before the Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) hammered down his house which he had rented out to Shaista Parveen, wife of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed, the accused in the Umesh Pal murder case.
The demolition drive was carried out a day after Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said in the state Assembly that his government will finish mafias operating in the state and will not spare anyone. Under this campaign, the civic authority demolished a house belonging to Zafar in Chakia, Kasari Masari locality under Dhoomanganj police station limits amidst tight security arrangements.
On Thursday, the authorities demolished the house of Safdar Ali, an alleged arms trader linked to Atiq Ahmed. Following Pal's murder, Atiq Ahmed, who is lodged in Gujarat jail, his brother Ashraf, wife Shaista Parveen, two sons, and 11 others were booked following a complaint by Pal's wife.
According to the police, Zafar is said to be a close associate of Atiq Ahmed and was accused of giving shelter to the shooter. The PDA officials also claimed that Zafar's house, worth around Rs 3 crore, was built without getting the map sanctioned. "Two rifles, one sword, several documents including birth certificates, driving licenses, banners, posters and some photographs from the house belonging to Atiq's wife and son were seized," the PDA told the media.
Speaking to NewsClick, Zafar said, "I bought the house in January 2021 with my hard-earned savings through my brother-in-law Khan Saulat Hanif, who is an advocate by profession, from one local Meraj Siddiqui. Two months after the purchase, my brother-in-law sought my permission to put the house on rent. He did not inform me that Atiq's wife will be staying. He only said I will receive Rs 20,000 every month as rent. I happily agreed and permitted him. When my house was rented out to Shaista Parveen, she was not booked in any case at the time," Zafar stressed.
The journalist who has been living with his sister Shahnaz Parveen in the Gularnaka locality in Banda for the last eight years said that the keys and documents of the house were in the possession of brother-in-law Saulat Hanif Khan as he never went to see the house in the past two years after buying.
When asked about how he came to know about the house for sale, he said, "Obviously, my brother-in-law Khan Saulat Hanif had told me about this house. Rs 40 lakh was the last price quoted by the owner, but I could collect only Rs 27 lakh; that too after selling some of my wife’s borrowings from relatives. When I could not manage the full amount, the rest Hanif gave to me," he said.
Zafar, along with his brother-in-law, is now gearing up to approach the Allahabad High Court against the "illegal demolition" carried out by the PDA.
"I have been a journalist for more than a decade in the state and there is not a single case against me at any police station. How can the administration demolish my house for giving shelter to an alleged criminal," he asked.
Meanwhile, when a group of journalists, intellectuals, and activists claimed that the administration has demolished a house of a journalist in haste, the administration issued a press release saying it would look into the matter. “In the Prayagraj commissionerate, during the probe into the murder of Mr Umesh Pal and the proceedings against mafia Atiq Ahmed and his associates, it has come to light that the demolished house 297/205 F belongs to Zafar Ahmed Khan S/o Mohd. Habib Khan r/o 64 U. Era Convent School is situated in Gularnaka, Kotwali Nagar, District Banda,” the release reads.
"Zafar Ahmed Khan is a reporter with ANI in the district Banda, whose house located in Prayagraj has been demolished by the Prayagraj Development Authority. The district police are verifying and authenticating these claims. Whatever facts will come to light during the investigation will be made available,” the press release further reads.
NewsClick tried to speak to the PDA vice-chairman Arvind Kumar Chauhan, but did not get a response.
Meanwhile, Lal Babu Tiwari, a lawyer at the Allahabad High Court – whose house started displaying cracks after a demolition drive by the PDA – is also said to be angry with the demolition drive and reportedly plans to approach the court.
Commenting over the ongoing demolition drives, Yash Malviya, a progressive thinker and poet based in Prayagraj told NewsClick, "The Sangam city has been a city of educated people but the saffron government is leaving no stone unturned to paint the city as the city of mafias. It is unfortunate that without proper investigation and prior notice the house of a journalist was razed to dust. The journalist is known for his credibility here. The current regime does not believe in the judiciary and wants to deliver justice with bulldozers. This is the sinister face of the anarchy the government is feeling proud of."
A similar controversy had erupted when the Uttar Pradesh government last year had demolished the house of activist Afreen Fatima after police named her father, Javed Mohammad, as the “mastermind” behind the protests against the now-suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s remarks on the Prophet. However, the government faced backlash when it came to know that the house was owned by Javed’s wife which was gifted to her by her father.
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