04/13/2022, 17.37
INDIA
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Authorities in Madhya Pradesh demolish Muslim homes

by Nirmala Carvalho

Local officials admit that the demolitions were a form of collective punishment, but also claim that the buildings were illegal. Sectarian clashes between Hindus and Muslims are also reported in Gujarat and West Bengal during Ram Navami, a Hindu festival. Hindus taking part in processions chanted anti-Muslim slogans while police stood idly by before moving in.

Bhopal (AsiaNews) – Sectarian violence recently broke out between Hindus and Muslims in Madhya Pradesh during Ram Navami, a Hindu festival.

As a result, mobs of Hindutva extremists attacked mosques and set homes on fire. Instead of prosecuting the culprits, state officials ordered the demolition of the homes of the Muslims involved in the riots, claiming they were illegal.

Overnight on 10-11 April, gangs of Hindu fanatics held processions marking the birth of the god Rama in Muslim majority neighbourhoods in Khargone and Sendhwa districts, shouting inflammatory slogans against Muslims.

Early reports suggest that clashes began near the Talab Chowk Mosque in Khargone when Muslims reacted to Hindu chants by throwing stones.

At least 10 homes were torched and several people were injured. An unverified video shows a mosque engulfed in flames, while in another, youths are seen pelting stones at Muslim homes, apparently with the help or complicity of the police, who waited for some time before intervening and imposing a curfew.

More sectarian incidents were reported for the same reasons in the states of Gujarat and West Bengal.

“We demand action against the anti-social elements who in the garb of religious programmes had been trying to disrupt peace and harmony in Gujarat,” reads a letter from the Minority Coordination Committee, a civil society group in Ahmedabad, sent to the Gujarat Director General of Police (DGP).

“All CCTV footage in Himmatnagar should be checked and those caught carrying weapons without permission should be booked and arrested,” the letter added.

In Madhya Pradesh, which is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, local authorities responded to the violence by demolishing at least 16 houses and 29 shops owned by Muslims.

Several politicians admitted that the demolitions were carried out to collectively punish rioters, even though the official reason given was that the buildings in question were illegal.

In fact, the day after the attack against the Hindu processions, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra threatened to turn “the house where the stones have come from [. . .] into a pile of stones itself”.

Indore Range Police Commissioner, Pawan Kumar Sharma, told The Indian Express yesterday that, “So far 84 people have been arrested and their illegal properties are being demolished.”

Legal experts have pointed out that under Indian law, the authorities cannot punish an alleged crime with legislation that refers to another illegal act, stressing that in this case the action taken is clearly a form of collective punishment against a religious minority.

No one has been tried in connection with the riots, and demolishing a building requires certain procedural steps, like sending a notice, allowing the accused to testify in a hearing, and issuing the demolition order by a competent body.

Some of the people left homeless or deprived of their business told local media that they had not received any written notice.

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