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New Delhi: Fresh show-cause notices were received this week by the families of several accused in the violence that broke out in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur on June 10 during protests against the derogatory remarks made by suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nupur Sharma on Prophet Muhammad.
Over 80 individuals were arrested in the aftermath of the violence in Sahranpur and they are still languishing in police custody as the investigations continue.
Previously, two homes belonging to the accused were razed in the city.
The notices served to the families have been issued by a junior engineer and a helping engineer of the Saharanpur Development Authority (SDA). It states that the properties of the accused violate provisions under Section 14 of the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act, 1973.
Marking individual properties and specifying their dimensions, the notice states that the properties have been constructed illegally and that therefore, the families have to appear before SDA today, June 24, to register their cause and explain their positions as to why their properties should not be forcefully demolished.
If they fail to appear, the SDA will assume that there is no response and under the law, the property will be demolished. The undersigned on the notice is the secretary of the SDA.
The Wire has identified six such cases wherein the notices have been sent. Lawyers state that more such cases are surfacing and as such, the exact number cannot be ascertained yet.
Many of the names of those who have been served the notices are those of the accused named in the first information report (FIR) filed by Saharanpur Police in the violence case. The FIR in the case names 31 persons and 200-300 unknown persons and charges of unlawful assembly, attempt to murder and rioting, among others.
Interestingly, the notices accessed by The Wire are dated June 10, the day of the protests and subsequent violence. The families and lawyers allege that the notices have been back-dated in order to harass the accused and their families.
Were notices kept ready?
The families of the accused are coordinating with a team of lawyers to file their responses against any bulldozer action on their property.
The lawyers, who spoke to The Wire on the condition of anonymity, said, “The notices were created on the 10th, the day that the violence broke out in the city. This action is taking place on a whim. We cannot confirm the exact number of notices since people are coming in and informing us as and when they receive notices. However, 10-15 people have received the notices.”
“What is important to understand here is that the law pertaining to the municipal corporation was formed in 1991; however, people have been living in these houses prior to the creation of the Saharanpur District Authority. How does the authority then have any power to destroy people’s homes?” the lawyer added.
“If the FIR has been filed on the same day, how come show cause notices have been given on the same day? How can notices be generated the same day of the violence? Did the SDA know of this (the violence) in advance so that the notices could be kept ready?” they continued.
Family of one accused responds
Mohammad Farhan* (name changed) was arrested on June 10. A show cause notice relating to his family’s property was served to his them with regards to a part of their home, measuring 50 ft, on the ground floor.
Farhan’s mother, in a letter to the SDA, raised questions over the move, stating that the notice is based on spite and deceit by the SDA.
In her letter to the junior engineer, dated June 21, she states that the house is not in the name of the accused but in her name. She goes on to add that the area mentioned is 50 sq ft, on which SDA’s laws or provisions under the UP Urban Planning and Development Act are not applicable.
Further, she also blamed the authority for specifically targeting those who were arrested on June 10 in connection with the protests. Accusing the engineer of not verifying the ownership details of the property, she wrote “It appears that the Junior Engineer knew who will be named in the FIR and a ready-made report was filed.”
The lawyers stated that the families who have been served notices have been living in their homes for a substantial period of time and therefore, the sudden targeting of their properties is questionable.
Mohammad Anees*, whose brother, Mohammad Azan*, has also been arrested, said, “We live on rent. Our uncle lives in the house about which the notice has been served. The notice arrived yesterday (June 21). Can anyone prove to us that he was a part of any protest? This is being done just to trouble us. The family is now taking legal recourse.”
The mother of another accused, Shameem’s*, confirmed that the family received a notice. Speaking to The Wire, she said, “The notice was served to us in the morning, we are waiting to see what happens. An application has been filed by our lawyers. This sort of notice has never been served to us.”
Demolition drives in response to the protests and subsequent violence have been on for some time now. On June 12, the home of anti-CAA activist Afreen Fatima in Prayagraj was razed to the ground after the authorities alleged that her father, activist Javed Mohammad, was the “mastermind” of the Prayagraj violence on June 10. Experts had alleged inconsistencies in the notice issued in that case as well.
On June 11, bulldozer action was initiated in Saharanpur. The residences of two Muslim men arrested in the case – Muzzamil and 17-year-old Abdul Waqir – were demolished after the police reached the houses of two accused, along with a team of officials of the local civic body, and claimed they were illegal constructions.
On June 13, Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind had filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government to desist from undertaking the demolitions. After the top court sought the state government’s response, the latter stated that the demolition drives have no connection with the protests and are, in fact, routine exercises being carried out by independent local authorities.
During a previous hearing, the Supreme Court had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to not carry out demolition activities “except in accordance with law” and gave it three days to demonstrate how its recent drives had followed procedural and municipal laws. The case is still ongoing and a hearing is set for today.
The Wire reached out to the Saharanpur Development Authority, however, it did not receive a response. This story will be updated as and when a response is received.
*The names of some individuals have been changed to protect their identities.