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Bulldozer Raj: 'Only recourse is the courts. Political activism seems to be dead'

June 14, 2022 09:15 IST
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'It is obvious that this is both illegal and unconstitutional.'

IMAGE: June 12, 2022, a bulldozer demolishes the residence of Javed Ahmed, who has been accused of being the alleged mastermind of the June 10 protests in Prayagraj over the remarks on Prophet Mohammad. Photograph: ANI Photo

The Uttar Pradesh government claims it demolished student activist Afreen Fatima's home in Prayagraj on Sunday, June 12, because it is an 'illegal construction' and also because her father Javed Mohammad played a key role in organising protests in the city over then Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma's remarks on Prophet Muhammed.

This was not the only home demolished in UP. Homes of several protestors who took part in protests in Saharanpur and Kanpur over Sharma's remarks were also demolished.

Indira Jaising, the senior Supreme Court lawyer and former additional solicitor general of India, has been unsparing in her condemnation of the 'bulldozer raj' that has been introduced in several BJP ruled states.

"They are deliberately fermenting alienation amongst a whole community," Jaising tells Senior Contributor Rashme Sehgal.


Bulldozers are indiscriminately breaking down the homes of those who have taken part in protests. How come no lawyer has taken up this issue before the Supreme Court?

That is not correct. This matter has been taken up by senior advocate Dushyant Dave before the Supreme Court when demolition was ordered in the Jahangirpuri area.

(After riots took place in Jahangirpuri in April, the Delhi Municipal Corporation ordered a demolition drive, but the Supreme Court intervened and ordered maintenance of the status quo).

But this has not stopped BJP-ruled state governments from continuing with the bulldozer raj as has happened in the case of student activist Afreen Fatima whose parental home was brought down this Sunday in Prayagraj.

In the case of Afreen Fatima, I understand a petition was filed in the Allahabad high court.

The practice is to file a petition in the nearest high court.

The Supreme Court is telling people to go to the high courts and file their petition there.

Why has no suo moto petition been filed on such a pressing matter in the Supreme Court? Why has the Supreme Court on its own not stopped this process as nowhere has it (bulldozers demolishing homes before guilt has been established in a court of law) been stipulated in the Indian Penal Code?

There are no rules and regulations on what the Supreme Court should take notice of.

The Supreme Court did take suo moto cognisance of migrant workers during Covid and ordered the Centre and state governments to immediately provide them with transport and food.

This happened following a huge outrage in the public domain.

I do not know if anyone has approached them on this demolition issue.

It is not easy for me to give a yes or no on this.

The Supreme Court has been saying all the time that they should be approached with a proper petition.

This is such a pressing issue with people being rendered homeless.

It is obvious that this is both illegal and unconstitutional. This is clear to me as it is to a lot of people.

BJP leaders I have spoken to justify the action stating they have been elected to maintain peace and tranquility in the public domain.

Who is stopping them from maintaining peace and tranquility? But it does not mean they go around demolishing peoples' homes.

Why have you not filed a petition?

I believe people who are closer to the ground must take the intitiative. I will do whatever I can to support them.

IMAGE: A bulldozer demolishes Javed Ahmed's residence in Prayagraj, June 12, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

Does the government not realise the consequences of these actions?

Their policy to reduce Muslims to being second class citizens is very clear. They are not concerned with whether they (Muslims) support them or not.

No government which was even slightly concerned about public opinion could take such action.

They are deliberately fermenting alienation amongst a whole community. They are doing this with their eyes wide open.

Will this affect the entire country?

Absolutely. What is happening regarding Nupur Sharma's comments are preposterous.

Everybody I have spoken to on this issue is in a state of disbelief.

They are so upset at these developments. A sense of helplessness has come over us.

What is the way out?

I feel the only recourse can be the courts. Political activism seems to be dead.

Is the Opposition scared that if they speak up, they will lose Hindu votes?

I do not think it is that. The Opposition is in a state of disarray. Not even the Samajwadi Party has made a noise about these demolitions.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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