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New Delhi: Following an altercation between members of the local Dalit and Muslim communities in the town of Jirapur in the Rajgarh district of Madhya Pradesh, the district authorities on Thursday, May 19, destroyed 48 homes which they identified as ‘encroaching’ upon government land.
The altercation reportedly broke out on Tuesday night as a Dalit marriage procession was crossing a mosque in the area.
The police said that members of the local minority Muslim community had objected to the loud music being played by the procession, which eventually kicked up a row between the two groups, leading to stone-pelting, the Indian Express reported.
Rajgarh superintendent of police (SP) Pradeep Sharma told the newspaper that at least five people, including a six-year-old, were injured in the stone-pelting.
The members of the band playing at the procession were allegedly beaten, however, Sharma noted that, as per the statements given by the band members, they had lowered the volume while crossing the mosque.
This is corroborated by Jirapur station in-charge Prabhat Gaud, who had told news agency PTI that the procession resumed playing loud music when it reached a nearby temple, following which the accused began pelting stones at the group from behind.
A first information report (FIR) was lodged after the incident under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 294 (obscene acts and songs); 336 (endangering life or personal safety); 506 (criminal intimidation); as well as under certain sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act).
The FIR was registered against Samar Lala, Farhan Khan, Junaid Khan, Sohail Khan, Sabir Khan, Anas Kasai, Dagga Khan and others, the police said.
The entire incident was reportedly captured on CCTV cameras and as such, despite only seven individuals being named in the FIR, eight people have been arrested and a total of 21 have been identified as accused. According to the Express report, the arms licenses of six accused have been revoked.
After the 21 accused were identified, the municipal corporation reportedly identified 18 homes in Jirapur’s ward 4 which belonged to the accused.
Jirapur tehsildar Ashwin Ram Chiraman noted that the action will be taken against those who pelted stones at a Dalit marriage procession.
“We have initiated action against encroached land. These people threw stones at the marriage procession of a Dalit Man. The houses of 18 accused were marked for demolition and action would be taken,” India Today quoted Chiraman as saying.
Notices were issued identifying the ‘encroaching’ houses and public announcements were made regarding a ‘demolition drive’. On Thursday morning, the 18 identified houses were razed to the ground.
An additional 30 houses were allegedly jutting out into a public road and were partially destroyed.
“Another 30 are homes constructed by encroaching areas of the road leading to Mata Mandir, which is public land. They were issued notices yesterday; at least three notices have been issued in the past,” Chiraman told the Express.
When asked about the which community the demolished houses belonged to, Chiraman said, “The accused belong to the Muslim community. While 30 encroachments on government road belong people from both communities, since the area is Muslim-dominated, these homes largely belong to those from the community.”
The Jirapur municipal authorities’ move joins an increasingly long list of demolition drives by government authorities to supposedly enforce justice.
While the use of bulldozers dates in this manner can be traced back several years, particularly in Madhya Pradesh, numerous instances of the same can be recalled from the last month alone.
Following communal violence in several parts of the country on Ram Navami, April 10, ‘anti-encroachment’ drives were carried out by the administration, which came under criticism for selectively targeting the Muslim community.
This was seen in Khargone in Madhya Pradesh itself, in Gujarat’s Anand district, and in the national capital as well, where bulldozers razed the shops and homes of mostly Muslims in Jahangirpuri and then again in Shaheen Bagh, the site of 2019’s anti-CAA protests, some 20 days later.