'Rule of Law Lost in Rubble': Protests, Disbelief After UP Authorities Raze Afreen Fatima's House

As Prayagraj authorities bulldozed a prominent politician and activist's house, many commented on the legality of such brazen action, pointing out that the communal nature of it was for all to see.

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New Delhi: Activists, a section of opposition politicians, journalists and social media commentators reacted to the Prayagraj Development Authority demolishing JNU student Afreen Fatima’s house with disbelief, condemnation and peaceful protests.

The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) staged a demonstration on the JNU campus on Sunday, June 11.

Uttar Pradesh authorities demolished the house of Fatima’s father Javed Ahmad, a leader of the Welfare Party of India, after police named him the “mastermind” of the June 10 protests against Bharatiya Janata Party leaders’ remarks against Islam.

Javed’s lawyer K.K. Roy had earlier told The Wire that the demolition, which took place within hours of a notice being handed to Fatima – while the rest of her family was in police custody – had taken place on dubious grounds.

JNUSU members raised slogans against the “bulldozer raj” of the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath and held placards that read: “Stop the witch-hunt of Muslims”.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi said Adityanath had subsumed the role of the Chief Justice of the Allahabad high court.

“The UP chief minister has become the Chief Justice of the Allahabad high court. He’ll convict anyone and demolish their houses?,” Owaisi asked while addressing a rally in Gujarat’s Kutch, according to NDTV.

The Kanpur administration, too, has started sealing properties of those allegedly involved in the June 3 violence sparked by the comments of two now-sacked BJP functionaries against Prophet Mohammed.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted that he was shocked at the news, noting that “due process of law is fundamental to democracy.”

MP Karti Chidambaram tweeted with the hashtag #bulldozer, without going into the specific details of Fatima’s case.

Samajwadi Party head Akhilesh Yadav appeared to allude to the demolition and said the BJP’s attitude still does not appear to be “just”.

“How is it just that the person whose statement disturbed peace and drew flak from across the world, gets security, while Ram Rajya is being crushed by a demonic bulldozer’? the leader said.

A week ago, Delhi Police provided security to suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma and her family after an FIR was registered on a complaint claiming she was getting death threats over her remarks against Prophet Mohammad on a TV channel.

TMC MP Mahua Moitra also highlighted legal process and the dangers of ignoring it without entering into details.

As opposition politicians’ reactions steered clear of taking on the Adityanath government head on, commentators observed the absence of opposition-led physical protests.

On Monday, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati posted a series of tweets on the atmosphere of “fear and terror” that has been created and said that the courts should take cognisance.

The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister also demanded that former BJP functionaries Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal, whose remarks against Prophet Mohammad, sparked protests should be arrested.

Writing in Hindi, Mayawati said, “By targeting a particular community, doing demolition using bulldozer, other malicious aggressive actions, crushing the protest, an atmosphere of fear and terror has been created. This is unfair and unjust. The court must take cognisance of the faulty action of targeting the entire family by demolishing the houses.”

Many on social media also took on the nature of national media channels’ coverage of the demolition. CNN News18, for instance, ran the ticker, ‘Action they won’t forget’ with footage of the bulldozer at work.

Several also commented on the legality of such brazen action, pointing out that the communal nature of it was for all to see.

A former Chief Justice of the Allahabad high court, Justice Govid Mathur, meanwhile told Indian Express that such an action was “totally illegal.”

“Even if you assume for a moment that the construction was illegal, which by the way is how crores of Indians live, it is impermissible that you demolish a house on a Sunday when the residents are in custody. It is not a technical issue but a question of rule of law,” he said.

Former Congress leader Kapil Sibal commented that the law is “sleeping.”