'Muslims Targeted in 128 Demolitions, 617 People Affected': Amnesty Reports on Bulldozer Action

BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of “punitive demolitions” at 56, the report said.

New Delhi: International human rights organisation Amnesty International has called for an immediate cessation of the widespread and unlawful demolitions of Muslims’ homes, businesses, and places of worship in India.

The organisation released two reports on Wednesday (February 7), titled ‘If you speak up, your house will be demolished’: Bulldozer Injustice in India’ and ‘Unearthing Accountability: JCB’s Role and Responsibility in Bulldozer Injustice in India’.

The reports document the punitive demolition of Muslim properties in at least five states using JCB-branded bulldozers calling it “a hate campaign against the minority community”.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General expressed deep concern, stating, “The unlawful demolition of Muslim properties by the Indian authorities, peddled as ‘bulldozer justice,’ is cruel and appalling. Such displacement and dispossession are deeply unjust, unlawful, and discriminatory. They are destroying families and must stop immediately.”

The organisation urged the government to “immediately halt the de facto policy of demolishing people’s homes as a form of extra-judicial punishment and ensure nobody is made homeless as a result of forced evictions” in a press note, adding that adequate compensation is given to all those affected by the demolitions.

Also read: The Unconstitutionality of ‘Bulldozer Justice’

According to its investigations, between April and June 2022, authorities in five states carried out demolitions as a form of ‘punishment’ following communal violence or protests against discrimination.

The reports detail 128 documented demolitions, with at least 33 instances of JCB’s equipment being repeatedly used, affecting 617 individuals who were rendered homeless or deprived of their livelihoods.

BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of “punitive demolitions” at 56, the reports said.

According to the report, the demolitions, often enacted under the guise of removing illegal construction, violated due process outlined in domestic and international human rights law. They also highlighted that Muslim-concentrated localities were targeted, while Muslim-owned properties were selectively demolished, leaving nearby Hindu-owned properties untouched.

Although not the only vehicles used, JCB bulldozers have become the brand of choice, with the company earning nicknames such as ‘Jihadi Control Board’ from right-wing media and politicians.

Amnesty International had earlier written to JCB regarding the matter. In response, a company spokesperson said that they had no control or responsibility over how its products are used.

However, according to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, JCB has a responsibility to respect human rights and conduct due diligence to identify, prevent, and mitigate adverse human rights impacts linked to its operations, the human rights group said.

“Under international standards, JCB is responsible for addressing what third-party buyers do with its equipment. The company must stop looking away as JCB machines are used to target and punish the Muslim community, while people sloganeer anti-Muslim vitriol mounted from atop these bulldozers. JCB cannot continue to evade responsibility while its machines are repeatedly used to inflict human rights abuses,” Callamard said.