New Delhi: On December 30, 2020, a day after clashes were reported in an Indore village between members of right-wing organisations and local Muslim residents, the district administration demolished parts of nearly 80 houses belonging to the latter, according to reports.
In many parts of Madhya Pradesh, right-wing organisations have held fundraising rallies for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Clashes and tensions have been reported in at least three locations – Ujjain, Mandsaur and Chandan Khedi in Indore.
In Chandan Khedi, clashes were reported on last Tuesday (December 29, 2020) during a rally. There were also reports of stone-pelting by the residents.
According to the Indian Express, the sub divisional magistrate of Depalpur Tehsil, Pratul Sinha, said the houses were demolished as part of a road-widening initiative. “After the clash, it was realised that the road was not wide enough for even a fire tender to pass…. villagers were told to demolish the houses since these were illegal encroachments on land owned by the government of Madhya Pradesh,” he said.
While Sinha claimed that the houses were demolished with oral consent of the locals, the residents disagree.
Parveen Bi, the wife of panchayat member Mohammad Rafeeq – who was among the 27 locals arrested for their alleged role in the clash – told the Indian Express that officials of the district administration officials came and asked her to vacate the house for demolition. “Why did they suddenly decide to demolish our homes without any notice,” she said.
Some residents also told the Times of India that they were informed about the demolition drive just hours before it began, adding that there was no proposal earlier for widening the road, they said. “We are not against any development work and also want to maintain law and order, but the project should be implemented without any ill intention or bias,” locals, requesting anonymity, told the newspaper.
The move has also taken on political colour after Indore district Congress president Satish Yadav questioned the timing of the demolition drive. “We strongly object to the timing of the administration’s removal drive for so called road widening work,” he told TOI. “Many proposals of road widening are pending across the district, why did the administration choose this road? The people involved in the stone pelting should be punished but people of a particular community should not be punished for that.”
Indore’s BJP president Rajesh Sonkar defended the drive, saying there was a long-pending demand to widen the road. “It’s the main road of Chandankhedi village, which connects it with many other villages,” he said, adding that the drive should not be perceived as targeting a particular community.
Violence was reported in the Chandan Khedi – a Muslim-majority village – on December 29, 2020 when members of Hindutva groups began sloganeering near a mosque. According to reports, around 200 people began chanting the Hanuman Chalisa and “Jai Shri Ram” near the mosque when prayers were being offered inside.
As the clash intensified, some locals alleged that the police did not intervene effectively. According to the Indian Express, Indore inspector general of police Yogesh Deshmukh said, “We are trying to identify those in the rally who were responsible and they will be booked soon. I will urge all those who have evidence to come forward and action will be taken against all responsible, including policemen.”
The newspaper also reported that two policemen – a deputy superintendent of police and the station house in-charge of Gautampura Police Station – were suspended for “failing to control the situation”.