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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.
KK Rai of Adhivakta Manch on letter petition to Chief Justice. Says Javed's house was in the name of his wife Parveen Fatima which was gifted by her father. As per Muslim property rules, if the property is under a woman's exclusive ownership, it can be shared with the husband. pic.twitter.com/WYBCpYYuaB
— Piyush Rai (@Benarasiyaa) June 12, 2022
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.”
Shocked to receive this from JNU with the update that the family’s home has been demolished: https://t.co/iQ2BEJ9kFt
Due process of law is fundamental to democracy. Under what law & following what process has this been done? Has UP exempted itself from the Constitution of India?
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) June 12, 2022
MP Karti Chidambaram tweeted with the hashtag #bulldozer, without going into the specific details of Fatima’s case.
India Needs To Introspect Forcefully About Destruction Agenda. #bulldozer
— Karti P Chidambaram (@KartiPC) June 12, 2022
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.
Police only enforce law, courts set punishment after due process.
Very dangerous for India & rule of law if police demolish house of blade attack accused in MP before courts can punish them. Descent into jungle law cannot be answer.
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) June 12, 2022
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.”
3. सरकार द्वारा नियम-कानून को ताक पर रखकर आपाधापी में किए जा रहे बुलडोजर विध्वंसक कार्रवाईयों में न केवल बेगुनाह परिवार पिस रहे हैं बल्कि निर्दोषों के घर भी ढह दिए जा रहे हैं। इसी क्रम में पीएम आवास योजना के मकान को भी ध्वस्त कर देना काफी चर्चा में रहा, ऐसी ज्यादती क्यों?
— Mayawati (@Mayawati) June 13, 2022
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.
Can such channels be called news channels anymore? pic.twitter.com/leGoogZHnv
— Supriya Sharma (@sharmasupriya) June 12, 2022
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.
How will we recover the rule of law from this rubble?
— Biraj Patnaik (@birajpat) June 12, 2022
There is no legal basis for demolition of houses. Has happened in Assam, and it's happening now in UP. Bulldozing homes of 'accused' is never about justice. It's about Vengence. And the current government is making bulldozing its go-to model to bring forth Majoritarian consent.
— Manoranjan Pegu (@manoranjanpegu) June 12, 2022
"The SC said in Olga Tellis case that the right to housing comes under Article 21, which mandates a right to be given a notice and heard before the eviction, and rehabilitation under government schemes."
— Ashutosh Bhardwaj (@ashubh) June 13, 2022
The fact that we are all watching this, horrified and helpless, is going to have a chilling effect.
We might have been mentally prepared for jail.
But how do you prepare for the fact that if the govt doesn't like you, it'll come torture your family and tear down your home?
— Naomi Barton (@therealnaomib) June 12, 2022
The illegal bulldozer raj will bulldoze itself, just as the British raj did once.
— pamela philipose (@pamelaphilipose) June 13, 2022
Former Congress leader Kapil Sibal commented that the law is “sleeping.”
The culture of bulldozing thrives
the law SLEEPS
Desh badal raha hai
— Kapil Sibal (@KapilSibal) June 13, 2022