'Nobody will be saved if you don't stop this ideological and political-strategic bulldozer.'
On April 20, 2022, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation launched a demolition drive to allegedly remove encroachments in the C Block in Jahangirpuri in the national capital.
Most of the residents of the area -- workers and small-time shopkeepers -- are Bengali Muslims who settled down in the capital before the Emergency.
A group of petitioners, which included Brinda Karat, the Communist Party of India-Marxist leader, drew the Supreme Court's attention to the demolitions.
Despite the highest court in the land staying the demolitions, the NDMC demolitions reportedly continued for a couple of hours more, a shocking disregard for the Supreme Court's order.
"We have been seeing that they do not adhere to court orders, they also flout sections of the Constitution. So why shouldn't they be also charged with contempt of court? They have breached the orders of the Supreme Court," Brinda Karat tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Neeta Kolhatkar.
On the day the demolitions were taking place, you were the only politician who confronted the bulldozers. None from the Opposition was present. What was going on in your mind at that time?
I wasn't alone, my party members and comrades were there with me.
Since April 16th, the various incidents that have taken place -- be it on Hanuman Jayanti, the Shobha Yatra -- we have been there, taking fact-finding teams, to find out who are the people behind it.
I was not alone, all my comrades work with me. But the fact is that it was only us.
Yes, nobody from the Opposition was present. Isn't it surprising that while calls are being issued for the Opposition to unite, none from the other political parties was present during the demolitions.
Yes, it was only us comrades (smiles). As for your question, you should ask them, it is for them to answer. I can only speak for my party and myself.
I do not wish to speak for others nor do I find it necessary.
You went by the law book and your actions were borne out of sensitivity to basic human rights, but it has been deemed 'anti-national' by some people.
My action was to uphold the Supreme Court orders which they flouted. I was opposing only that.
These people were flouting the Supreme Court's orders. At that time I was coming with the Supreme Court stay, Jahangirpuri is far so by the time I reached, what do I see? That they had begun bulldozing.
Why was this being done? Why were the houses being demolished? This is contempt of court.
We have been seeing that they do not adhere to court orders, they also flout sections of the Constitution.
So why shouldn't they be also charged with contempt of court? They have breached the orders of the Supreme Court.
Although I am not one to use 'seditious' and 'anti-national', which you have asked, if at all anyone is, it's them who have disobeyed the Supreme Court's rules.
Let me tell you, I know the people of C Block. I also know the entire layout of the C Block in Jahangirpuri.
The people settled there 40 years ago.
It is completely wrong the kind of malicious accusations being flung -- that they are Rohingya, Bangladeshis. They are poor Indian citizens.
You cannot deprive them of citizenship just because they are poor. These are Bengali Muslims who settled 40 years ago.
They are poor labourers who first came and settled along the river Yamuna.
During the Emergency, when Sanjay Gandhi launched his (demolition) drive, they were made to settle in Jahangirpuri.
Have they been evicted prior to this? Why do you think this demolition drive was undertaken?
This demolition drive has been done deliberately and selectively.
Everybody who knows Jahangirpuri is aware workers and self-employed shopkeepers live and work there. In every block the people have outside the houses cycle shops, mobile repair shops, mithai shops, any small shop where they work. That is their livelihood.
This you will see everywhere in Jahangirpuri. The bulldozers came to demolish only in C Block. It is because of the demographics of C Block.
So first, they attack the poor, and second, they attack because the poor belong to the minority community.
This is selective demolition. Now in the Supreme Court, they (the NDMC) said some Hindu (owned) shops too have been broken.
Yes, but the selection was of the (C) block. So they need to answer why did they select this particular block. Once the bulldozer starts working, it doesn't discriminate whether the shop is owned by a Hindu or Muslim, it destroys everything in its way.
This bulldozer is only a machine. But this bulldozer represents a very narrow minded ideology and a political strategy which belongs to the Hindutva and Sangh Parivar ideology.
Today they are attacking the minority. But this is not just the minority.
What happened in Uttar Pradesh in the case of a Dalit who was asked to lick the feet of an upper caste person? How did they have the guts to do such a thing?
Today, it is the minorities to create a so-called Hindu identity. But within that Hindu identity, caste is there, gender is there, they are equally oppressed by this ideology.
Nobody will be saved if you don't stop this ideological and political-strategic bulldozer. Nobody in India will be saved.
The CPI-M has been consistently opposing this government's actions. You face flak, but despite that you and your party stand up against the government's actions. What drives you?
As a Communist I can say that is our creed, that is why we exist, to be there wherever there is injustice and whereever there is exploitation.
When we take the red flag in our hands, we do not think about what is going to happen to us.
What we do is clear to us -- that every action is geared towards the unjust economic and social system.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com