‘Bulldozer Action is Fine if There is No Revenge Politics’

Rahul Bhasin, a trader in pesticides and horticulture equipment from Prayagraj, feels that the media and social media added fuel to the fire in the recent flare up

Our family has been living in Prayagraj, erstwhile Allahabad, for three generations. It has always been a very peaceful district, with no known history of political violence. Therefore, it was a surprise to many of us when it suddenly flared up last week and there was largescale violence on the streets. This was followed by what is not popularly called ‘Bulldozer Action’, which was then legally challenged in the Supreme Court.

I squarely blame social media for this escalation and the mainstream media for adding fuel to the fire. I can safely bet that a majority of the protesters did not even know the complete details of the incidents for which they had descended on the road.

There was no fatwa (a religious diktat) or any call from any group for the citizens to hold protest. It all began on social media groups, with exaggerated claims on insulting a religion and then counter-information about Friday being the ‘Doomsday’. A number of unsubstantiated video clips of untamed violence as well as police brutality were also shared to push their agenda.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp were full of unverified information, pushing separate communal agendas with little restrain or control of local or state administration. There were provocative posts on such platforms about the ‘other’ community and while the fire spread, cyber cells were in deep sleep.

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UP Police social media handles have been quick in responding to complaints on social platforms lately, but in this instance they completely failed to figure out or control the situation. They should have been, at least, be more agile on issues related to daily public life and society.

The role of mainstream media was worse. There was no check on TV debates that knowingly or unknowingly fanned emotional issues and prompted hateful action to disturb social harmony. A similar hullabaloo was created during the Gyanwapi issue recently where all the news channels and the debaters were shouting from the rooftop. These debates have become the breeding ground for hate-mongers in recent years.

As far as the bulldozer action of the Yogi government is concerned, it is indeed an appreciable step to put the fear of law among criminal mafia in Uttar Pradesh. However, there has been a lack of transparency in their actions of late. As happened in the recent case of Javed Mohammed whose house was demolished for his alleged involvement in the protests, when, as later turned out, it was not even registered in his name.

I have one suggestion for the government: although the bulldozer action is the best remedy to tame wrong-doers and mafia in our state, the rulebook must be fairly followed in each case. Otherwise, it will lose its effectiveness and will be reduced to a tool to settle scores, serve political vendetta and target a select section.

As told to Rajat Rai

Defying The Demolition Doctrine

So what else will they like to demolish?

They demolished the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. This was followed by bloody riots in many parts of the country: violence, bloodshed, deaths and dying, and a communal polarization after that infamous black day of demolition which ravaged the social psyche in the Hindi heartland.

They have relentlessly and tirelessly moved to demolish the finest university in the country, and one of the best in the world: JNU. They tried their best and almost succeeded to destroy the prestigious film and television institute in India: the FTII of Pune. They tried their hand with Rohith Vemulla’s university in the South; Jadavpur University in Bengal, Jamia in Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.

Some of the most brilliant scholars, all young, most of them Muslims, are languishing in prison on cooked up charges. They have destroyed homes and shops of the poor in Jehangirpuri in Delhi, all legitimate and hardworking Indian citizens from Midnapur in West Bengal, and then in Saharanpur and Kanpur. Now, it is Allahabad.

They have willfully tried to usurp or destroy or sell out public institutions of the Indian democracy, you name it: media, education, health, the public sector, railways, airports, Bollywood. Even the private sector is allegedly compelled to toe the line. It is either them, or the damned highway in this heat.

So, what else will they choose to demolish and till which eternal end of eternity?

The house of Afreen. A former student of linguistics in AMU and JNU. A former member of the JNU Students Union. An articulate, independent, thinking young woman. So why do they hate young Muslim scholars so much, including the girls?

The home did not even belong to her father. It was reportedly a gift to her mother. Hence a policeman carries a portrait of a girl, in the ravaged circumstances, as if it is a bomb discovered in the ruins.

Posters, books, literature: so what else did they find in her house; what were they reading all this while; did they also find Harry Potter, Asterix, Mandrake and Vikram-Betaal, if not all the memories of Afreen’s childhood in that historic town near that holy river?

Not even a day’s notice was apparently given. The family was not at home to see their memories become rubble in moments. Earlier, Afreen told Al Jazeera, her mother and sister were detained for more than 30 hours. “The demolition is absolutely illegal because it is not even my father’s property. The house belongs to my mother… We have been paying our house tax for around 20 years and not once did we receive any intimation from the development authorities of Allahabad,” she said.

ALSO READ: BJP Wants Muslims To React Violently

The point is if people protest peacefully, will their homes, most of them built with hard-earned money earned over decades of hard labour, be demolished with literally no notice and no process of justice at all? And since when has stone-pelting or clashes with police on the streets led to homes being destroyed?

Indeed, did they destroy the homes of the ABVP goons who attacked, viciously and violently, JNU students, right inside the campus? Did they go for a demolition drive when the woman president of this esteemed university had her head smashed, blood all over her face?

Or, when mob-lynchers, organized and armed, went on killing Muslims as a public spectacle in Jharkhand, Dadri and elsewhere? Or when open calls were made to goli maaro? When peaceful mothers and sisters of Shaheen Bagh were protesting against the communal and polarizing anti-constitutional bill called the CAA?

If an idea can make you ill, the demolishing apparatus seem to have been possessed with a certain sickness unprecedented in the history of post-Independence India. This sickness spells the language of impending doom, not a Hindu rashtra, which secular and pluralist India will never become. Certainly, not in this lifetime. And Afreen and her family stand as a symbol of this secular India.

This is 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 law,” said former Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Gobind Mathur.

Earlier, in 2020, the chief justice had taken suo motu notice of the UP government’s move to name and shame activists who took up the cudgels against the CAA in Lucknow. The faces of the activists were splashed in public space in huge hoardings as if they were wanted criminals. The court held that this was against the principle of law and clearly violated their right to privacy.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had stopped the demolitions at Jehangirpuri in Delhi after the minorities were attacked on the occasion of a Hindu festival. Brinda Karat of the CPM and Ravi Rai of the CPI-ML (Liberation), along with activists, then led the resistance and stood before the bulldozers, thereby blocking the demolition of homes and shops of the poor residents, all legitimate residents of India staying there for years.

In an urgent letter petition to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court several former judges and lawyers have made a fervent appeal seeking suo motu cognizance of the recent acts in UP: “…Pursuant to this, the UP police have arrested more than 300 persons and registered FIRs against protesting citizens. Videos of young men in police custody being beaten with lathis, houses of protestors being demolished without notice or any cause of action, and protestors from the minority Muslim community being chased and beaten by the police, are circulating on social media, shaking the conscience of the nation. Such a brutal clampdown by a ruling administration is an unacceptable subversion of the rule of law and a violation of the rights of citizens, and makes a mockery of the Constitution and fundamental rights guaranteed by the State. The coordinated manner in which the police and development authorities have acted lead to the clear conclusion that demolitions are a form of collective extra judicial punishment, attributable to a state policy which is illegal. The mettle of the judiciary is tested in such critical times. On many occasions, including in the recent past, the judiciary has faced such challenges and emerged with distinction as the custodian of the rights of the people… We hope and trust the Supreme Court will rise to the occasion and not let the citizens and the Constitution down at this critical juncture.”

Among others, the petition has been signed by Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy, Justice V. Gopala Gowda, Justice A.K. Ganguly, all formerly with the apex court, Justice A P Shah, former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court and former Chairperson, Law Commission of India, Justice K Chandru, Madras High Court, Justice Mohammed Anwar, Karnataka High Court, among others.

Amidst the rubble, Afreen and her sister, mother and father, have stood like a rock. They peacefully protested against the CAA. Undoubtedly, they will peacefully protest against all forms of injustice and attacks on the secular contours and essence of the Indian democracy and the Constitution. Surely, the nation must stand with them in solidarity.

Indian Muslims Are Anxious, Leaders Busy In Blame Game

As per the reports based on first-person accounts and news circulating on various social media platforms, the Indian Muslims across the country are worried about their and their future generation’s future in the country.

The community as a whole is living under a siege mentality and is unable to fathom how to proceed further. One positive fallout of this stress is that now the common Indian Muslim is ready to come out on the streets and demands his rights and stand against the forceful establishment, in absence of any leadership.

This change amongst the common Indian Muslims started in 2019 after the finalisation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The protests, which started from Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, soon spread to many other cities. A novel feature of most of these protests was that Muslim women were at the forefront of these demonstrations.

More recently, after the bulldozer politics started in certain Indian states, Muslims in many cities came out once again against the establishment and stood in solidarity with one another.

However, one incongruous fact, which has emerged from these developments, is the absence of any Muslim leader, with an all-India appeal, leading these movements or even coming out in support of these people movements. This once again proves the point that after 1947 the Indian Muslims have been betrayed by their own leaders-both religious and political.

The fact remains that the so-called religious leaders are busy in amassing wealth in the name of the religion and expanding their personal empires. In addition, the social and political leaders pay lip-service to the Muslims’ sentiments and just appear at the right moment to get their mug shots for the photos and videos, making sentimental not practical statements, whilst engaged in serving their political masters and enjoying their political and financial patronage.

ALSO READ: ‘Bulldozer Is The New Symbol Of Muslim Persecution’

However, a rather more worrying is the fact that recently some Muslim leaders have come out to speak against the establishment and its anti-Muslim policies, but in fact their main aim is not to vilify the establishment, but to vilify their religious opponents and divide the community on fissiparous tendencies.

Last week one such conference was held in Hyderabad, Telangana. The main organisers and speakers at the conference looked more intent on creating divisions within the community, instead of offering any cohesive, forward looking and practical plan to counter the anti-Muslim narratives and operations.

The reports say that most of the speakers at the conference were intent on blaming different international organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Ikhwan, Al Qaeda and ISIS for the current plight of Indian Muslims, which sounds so incongruous!

One fails to comprehend how these scholarly figures were able to draw any parallel between the international organisations and Indian Muslims. Even to make any connection of the Indian Muslims with these organisations is to make them more unsafe and open to a whole lot of criticism, added to the fact that Indian Muslims might be sympathetic to these organisations but they have never been and nor will be associated with these organisations, and so far no evidence-based study has been able to link the two. So in effect, these leaders in the name of serving the Muslim cause were making them vulnerable to more attacks.

One of the leaders even went to the extent of urging the Indian Muslims to connect with the rulers and the governments, as per the proper methodology of Islam and to advise them, instead of uprisings and protests to dethrone them and occupy their seats. I hope the incongruity of this statement will not be lost to the readers.

Another speaker spoke about the qualities and patterns of Khawariji terrorists, while exposing the double standards of Islamist preachers like Yusuf Qardawi, Hasan Al Banna, Syed Qutub and Abul-Ala Maududi. This too has no resonance in India, so far.

Now coming to another of these so-called ‘Muslim’ conferences, which took place in Mumbai on 12 May and was addressed by about 35 Muslim religious, social and political leaders. At the end of the day long conference they issued a statement, one point of which read: “The meeting of the Muslim Community leadership appreciates the courage of local Muslim leaders for resisting the evil designs of Fascist forces and thwarting their plans of creating large scale violence against Muslims. It is observed that Muslims organising themselves to defend their lives and properties is a positive sign. The meeting calls upon Muslim leadership to organise at local levels and continuously review the situation at your respective cities. An organised approach towards such planned attacks on Muslims will be the best possible way to thwart the plans of the Fascist forces in a situation where unfortunately the state declines to do its duty of protecting the Minorities”.

The third one of these conferences is to be held in New Delhi on 21 May, organised by a consultative Muslim body and supported by a religious and socio-cultural organisation — which till a decade ago banned its members from participating in the democratic and parliamentary process of India and a fledgling political party and a religious denomination. And yet another one is scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 29 May under the banner of Muslims intellectuals (sic).

Coming back to the statement issued after the Mumbai conference, one can take heart from the sentiments expressed by the community’s leaders who have recognised the efforts by the common Indian Muslims to come out against the tyrannical rulers and urged them to organise themselves. But in reality these common Muslims have been made and in future too will be made the sacrificial scapegoat again, whilst these so-called leaders remain ensconced in their luxurious homes with no threat either financial or physical looming over their heads.

have written and spoken many times in the past that the Indian Muslims have to adopt not a reactive but a proactive strategy to counter any campaigns against them. To construct and manage such an apparatus, which keeps an eye on the planning of aggressors and plan a counter strategy, you have to be equipped with monitoring, research and media teams, within the constitutional framework of the country, to counter the opposition’s efforts.

But alas none of our leaders is ready to adopt such an approach and the biggest irony is that even if the Indian Muslims agree to adopt such a strategy, then it will have to be led by the so-called religious leaders eschewing their religious denominational differences and act and behave as One monolith religion, as others view you, not as being Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-e Hadith etc.

Going by the past experiences, one is not very hopeful that they may be ready to do so. Instead like what happened at the Hyderabad conference, they are ready to further widen the gulf between different religious denominations and claim their superiority over one another.

‘Bulldozer Is The New Symbol Of Oppression, With A Communal Agenda’

Suman, the editor of Jan Morcha, an independent, cooperative Hindi daily published from Faizabad, UP, says BJP’s political persecution has also galvanized resistance from people

For the BJP, bulldozers are the new brand of oppressive and polarizing politics. Obviously, the target is once again the Muslim community, and, that too, the poorest of the community.

After Jehangirpuri and the Ram Navami assaults on a mosque out there by an unruly mob with a communal agenda, they have now targeted Shaheen Bagh near Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi, which was the epicenter of the peaceful and protracted anti-CAA protests led by the mothers and daughters of the area amidst direct communal attacks in public discourse by top BJP leaders and ministers.

That the resilient people of Shaheen Bagh were able to stop the demolitions now is a sign that both the attacks and the resistance are going to build up in the day to come – and, seemingly, there is a hidden narrative behind this all.

It must be mentioned that during the recent elections in UP, the current chief minister mentioned in his public speeches that the bulldozers have been sent for repairing and they will be out soon to do their work. There were hoardings put up by the BJP with bulldozers, as if the lotus has been replaced as its party symbol. Even in Madhya Pradesh, reportedly, similar tactics have been used. More so, BJP workers were seen celebrating on top of bulldozers after the party won the assembly elections in UP.

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This has become a new political card for the party, and, sadly so. There are encroachments all over the country, including in UP, so why this sudden celebration with bulldozers now? Significantly, the rich are left to their game, even if they encroach on public land or footpaths, but the poorest are hit so badly, including roadside vendors and those plying humble carts to earn a daily livelihood.

Suman (inset) feels when oppression grows, so will people’s resistence as happened in Shaheen Bagh

It seems that behind all this there is a sinister plan. The plan is to create polarizing fissures in the social fabric and thereby up the political ante in support of the Hindutva plank of the BJP. Now, they are even planning to use the same tactics in Ayodhya.

Unfortunately, this could lead to a situation of serious conflict on the ground. Mobs might take over public spaces. And for how long can the people, especially the poor, endure these brazen and repeated acts of injustice, targeted so blatantly against one community, and for no rhyme or reason?

People will come out and protest — peacefully as always, one hopes — as in Shaheen Bagh now and as it was in Shaheen Bagh two years ago. I think the protests will intensify. My hunch is that the BJP think-tank wants the people to come out on the streets so that they can they use the plank of law and order and claim, ‘Look, the encroachers are flexing their muscles, and thereby need to be taught a good lesson’. The hidden agenda behind that is clear: push the Muslim community to the edge, and when they peacefully protest, manufacture a dangerous situation on the ground so as to consolidate and build the Hindutva vote base. This is dangerous and diabolical, and I fear for the worst in the days to come.

‘We Stood Like A Wall Between Bulldozers And Muslim Households’

Ravi Rai, a Communist leader, recounts how he along with a group of committed comrades, staked his life and body in front of the bulldozers at Jahangirpuri on April 20

It was after midnight on Tuesday that out party members came to know that the BJP leadership was hell-bent on demolishing the poor Muslim basti in Jahangirpuri, not only as revenge politics, but, also to push communal polarization to its peak after the violent and pre-meditated assaults on Muslim religious places in northwest Delhi. We call it premeditated because in several other towns and cities, especially in BJP-ruled states, similar pattern was followed to target Muslim households.

Sensing the urgency, a small group of the CPI-ML activists and volunteers rushed to the spot at around 10 in the morning on Wednesday. We stood like a wall between the heavy bulldozers and the Muslim houses till the time the Supreme Court order arrived, stopping all demolition at the site, around 11.

It is no coincidence that the six-seven bulldozers were operating in around 300 meters of the Muslim residential colony at C Block, where the mosque stood – the same mosque which was attacked by a group of goons during Hanuman Jayanti procession. The entire area and its by-lanes were under siege, with heavy police deployment and barricades. As if these homes of poor Indian citizens belonged to some terrorists!

We had earlier argued with the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (North), with no respite coming our way. He said he had no written orders and that the demolition was part of routine action taken time to time. Same were the tactics employed by the Delhi Police even while the bulldozers unleashed their terror in what seemed like an ‘occupation zone’.

CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat and her comrades joined in soon. Thereby, we decided to physically block the bulldozers.

Rai (encircled) on the site with his comrades and volunteers

I was pushed and manhandled, removed repeatedly by the cops, but I would come back with more conviction each time I was assaulted. We waved the Supreme Court orders at the bulldozers. They seemed to care a damn. This went on for two hours in the scorching heat. Seeing our peaceful and stoic resolve, finally, the administration decided to turn away their bulldozers.

ALSO READ: ‘Indian Muslims Must Remain Patient’

That this was a sinister plan and clearly politically motivated is borne out from the fact that the BJP Chairman of the MCD (North), had earlier written a letter asking for action against what he branded as encroachments. This is a blatant lie. These 22 square foot plots were given to the citizens by the government long time ago, and most of them come from Medinipur, West Bengal. They are hardworking and honest people.

In contrast, every area in Delhi has encroachments where the poorest of the poor, working in the informal economy, have set up make-shift tenements and live in sub-human conditions. So, why target only the Bengali Muslims of Jahangirpuri?

The cold-blooded response of Arvind Kejriwal and his party is much too predictable. That that they have chosen to bring in the Rohingya and Bangladeshi angle, typically smacks of infamous BJP propaganda. They are playing the same jarring note as they did during the state-sponsored communal violence engineered against the Muslims during the non-violent Shaheen Bagh protests against the communal CAA. Indeed, the stance of Kejriwal and his party leaders is truly sad and deplorable.

‘Indian Muslims Must Remain Patient, Seek Guidance From Quran’

Maulana Qamar Sultan Rizvi Jarchavi, a 52-year-old Shia cleric from Ghaziabad (UP), offers counsel in these difficult times for the Muslims in India

Muslims in India are going through one of the most challenging times in the history of the country. They have been at the centre of a series controversies such as CAA, hijab, halal, loudspeakers, hate speeches and many more. They are being insulted, disparaged, belittled and have been pushed into a corner. They have come to a point when they feel they can’t take it any longer.

While Muslims are at the receiving end, the majority community needs to spare a few moments and think about the deteriorating, hateful situation that the country has fallen into. They need to do some soul-searching to see whether this hatred is part of Indian tradition or is it something new, premeditated occurrence.

There is another angle to view the whole problem. It’s in the innate nature of human beings when we attain absolute power, we also acquire the fear of losing it. This whole circumstance gives the birth of an idea of setting up a permanent authority, which we also call establishment.

It is commonly observed that to consolidate more power, establishments often look for foes. If they don’t find them, they create such enemies. This whole situation can be likened to an example of a raging bull. He needs opponents to prove its strength. If he doesn’t find one, it rams into poles and pillars to use his energy. So, it’s in the training and nature of the establishment to perform like this. Sometimes, this yields positive results like justice and other times, causes atrocities.

Jarchavi wants a unanimous leadership to emerge among Indian Muslims

We have seen how Muslim rulers oppressed their own Muslim subjects. In the Islamic history, we have an infamous incident of Karbala when Yazid martyred the family members of Prophet Muhammad. In the current times, we have witnessed Muslim rulers like Saddam Hussein and many others who crushed their own people. It shows that the power doesn’t care about right and wrong. It aims to remain unchallenged and wants everyone bow to its might.

ALSO READ: ‘Muslims In UP Are Ill At Ease With Yogi’

Thus, when Muslims are suppressed under the might and power of the establishment, they should turn towards Allah. They need to supplicate in front of him. Muslims have forgotten the power of supplications. We must not forget how help came from Allah in the battle of Badr. Though Muslims were a few hundred in numbers and their enemies were thrice as big yet they won the battle.

Muslims must remember the famous story of the Year of the Elephant. When Abraha al-Ashram led a military expedition to destroy the Kaaba, Prophet Muhammad’s grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, who was the caretaker of the Kaaba, realized he can’t fight the forces of Abraha, so he supplicated. The Quran (Chapter 105) has drawn this incident that how Allah answered his du’a and Abraha and his army were destroyed.

Indian Muslims need to have this much trust in Allah when they raise their hands for du’a.

Besides, we need to end the discord within. We are too involved in settling the issue of minor Islamic jurisprudence that we have forgot to follow the main message of Quran. “And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not quarrel with one another lest you should lose courage and your power depart. Be patient, surely Allah is with those who remain patient.” (Quran, 8:46)

Muslims also need to choose a unanimous leader who will lead the community in the country. In the absence of a true leadership, we have come to the point when we can’t address either our Islamic issues or worldly issues.

As told to Md Tausif Alam