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New Delhi: The three people whose complaints of “illegal construction” allegedly led to the demolition of activist Javed Mohammad’s house by the Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) could not be identified by the Indian Express – despite the trio describing themselves as “respected people of the mohalla”.
The newspaper reported that its reporter asked 30 residents of the mohalla, J K Ashiana Colony in the Kareli area of Prayagraj, who reside within a 400m radius of Mohammad’s house about Sarafraj, Noor Alam and Mohammad Azam, the complainants. “Fifteen of them declined to comment, saying they feared government action. The other 15 responded: all of them said they did not know who the complainants were, and had never heard of them being local residents,” the report says.
Mohammad’s house was demolished on June 12, two days after there were protests in the city against “offensive remarks” made by now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma on Prophet Muhammad. The police accused Mohammad, the founder of the Welfare Party of India (WPI), of being the “mastermind” behind the protests.
With Yogi Adityanath promoting the idea of “bulldozer justice“, the demolition of the activist’s home was seen as punitive action for his role in the protests.
In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court about the demolitions, the Uttar Pradesh government said the action was not linked to the protests but was conducted in accordance with the law.
According to the Indian Express, the affidavit included the complaints of Sarafraj, Noor Alam and Mohammad Azam as an annexure. The complaints claimed there was “illegal construction” in the house and that the WPI office in the building was visited by “anti-social elements”. The complainants do not mention the addresses or contact details of the trio but described themselves as “respected people of the mohalla”, the report says.
The complaint said the construction of Mohammad’s double-storey building was “done without getting the ‘building plan/map’ approved from the PDA”. It added that people keep visiting the WPI officer “throughout the day and night and they park their vehicles on the road, which spoils the atmosphere of the locality… Some anti-social elements have also been seen in the office.”
The locals are “facing a lot of trouble” due to the WPI’s office being set up in a residential area and the PDA is “losing a lot of revenue” because the building map was not approved, they added.
“Please get the building inspected and take action as per the rules for removing the office from the said building,” the complaint says.
However, the Indian Express said that residents of the area described the allegations as “false”.
“I used to pass by the house regularly and had never seen people standing outside in large numbers. There is no one with any of those three names living in this area,” said one resident who lives 300 metres away from Mohammad’s house.
Notices served says affidavit, family denies claim
The affidavit also says that the PDA received the complaint on May 4. Six days later, the affidavit says, the PDA zonal officer “sent a notice” to the activist under section 27(1) of the UP Town Planning and Development Act, 1973, asking him to appear before it on May 24 to show why orders for demolition should not be passed.
The complainants sent another letter on May 19 asking PDA officials to inspect the building, following which the authority sent another notice on May 25. According to the affidavit, the second notice asked Mohammad to demolish the alleged “unauthorised construction” within 15 days.
A PDA supervisor identified as Mahesh went to the site with the notices on both occasions but the family members refused to accept them. However, Mohammad’s son Mohammad Shujat told IE, “No person from PDA came to our residence before June 10 to serve any notice.”