Abdul Rasheed narrates a harrowing incident where the police confined him in a bus while his shops were bulldozed in India’s Haryana state. The district, with a Muslim majority, experienced communal clashes recently. Rasheed, who rented shops to both Hindus and Muslims, felt devastated as there was no prior notice from the authorities before the demolition took place. The bulldozing of over 300 Muslim homes and businesses by Haryana’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government reflects a concerning pattern of collective punishment for religious violence.
The clashes began when a far-right Hindu group, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal, organised a procession that reached Haryana’s Nuh district. The two organisations, affiliated with the ruling BJP, have a history of targeting religious minorities, mainly Muslims and Christians. The Hindu groups blamed Muslims for initiating the violence, alleging that their procession was attacked, leading to confrontations between the two communities.
Muslims attribute the violence to a Facebook video released by a notorious Hindu vigilante, Monu Manesar, who is accused of killing two Muslim men earlier in the year over alleged cow meat transportation. Cows are considered sacred by many Hindus, and the consumption of beef is banned in several Indian states. Lynchings of Muslim butchers and transporters have been reported since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government came to power in 2014.
As the clashes in Nuh spread, anti-Muslim violence erupted in different parts of Haryana. The aftermath saw the demolition of numerous Muslim properties, leaving the community devastated. The BJP government justifies the demolitions as an effort to stop “illegal encroachments” on public lands, but human rights groups have condemned the government’s actions, which were carried out miles away from the site of the violence. The arbitrary arrest of over 150 Muslims in connection with the violence has further fuelled fear and distress among the community.
The situation has resulted in hundreds of men fleeing their homes in fear of being arrested. Many innocent individuals have been caught up in the police crackdown, with allegations of indiscriminate arrests without rigorous investigation. The BJP government’s actions have led to a climate of terror in the region, leaving many feeling abandoned and helpless. The village of Mewli witnessed a stark silence, and innocent families are left collecting the remains of their demolished shops. Concerns have been raised about the selective arrests and demolitions targeting only one community. Prominent Muslim parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi accuses the BJP government of giving collective punishment to the Muslim community without following due process or principles of natural justice.
Source: Al Jazeera