On Thursday, Amjad Khan was busy consulting with lawyers. The previous day, two units of a bakery he owned in Khargone’s Kareem Nagar had been bulldozed by the Madhya Pradesh administration on the grounds that they had been constructed illegally. Khan was determined to move the Madhya Pradesh High Court against the government’s actions.
“I will fight back,” said Khan, 44. “All this is illegal. I have all the proof I need.”
This was not the first time that a commercial unit owned by Khan had been demolished by the Madhya Pradesh administration, nor was it the first time he moved court against the administration.
On April 11, a large portion of the main unit of Khan’s bakery, where he made and sold biscuits, was demolished after the authorities said that it had been constructed without the necessary permissions. According to a senior home department official, 49 properties owned by Muslims were torn down by the administration that day.
Khan and other members of the town’s Muslim community insist that the demolitions were not prompted by municipal violations.
On April 10, a day before the demolitions, a procession to celebrate Ram Navami, the birthday of Ram, made its way through Khargone, which is located a little over 140 km from Indore. The rally, which featured young men dancing to loud music and waving saffron flags, halted in front of a mosque. Suddenly, stones were pelted.
Hindus claim that Muslims started the violence, while Muslims claim it was Hindus.
The next day, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra declared that the properties of those who hurled the projectiles “would be turned into a pile of stones”. Khan’s bakery was among them.
On April 29, Khan moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court against the demolition of his bakery. The court issued notices to government officials in Khargone district, asking them to explain their actions.
Notices to officials
Khan alleges the latest demolition was the consequence of an altercation on September 2 with six officials who came to his establishment to check if his bakery had the necessary permissions. Khan says they came in unannounced and were rude to him.
“The reality is that they did not like that I moved the court against them,” he told Scroll.in. “Earlier, they demolished one unit, now they came after the remaining two.”
Khargone sub-divisional magistrate Milind Dhoke told Scroll.in that Khan’s allegations were baseless. He said that Khan’s establishments not only lacked building permissions, he also failed to obtain approvals from the pollution board.
“The pollution board had given him a notice separately to shut his shop,” Dhoke said.
In addition, the official claimed that Khan “had also not paid any of his taxes”. He added that Khan was given several weeks to get the required permissions.
What happened on September 2
Khan alleged that the September 7 demolitions were the result of an incident in his shop on September 2, when a man with a handkerchief came to his shop along with some others.
“I asked him who he was but he did not say anything,” Khan said. “I asked him how he could come inside my shop like this and asked if he had any permission. He was arrogant and said he needed no permission and had come to do checking.”
The businessman said that when he was unable to get a straight answer from the man, he raised his voice. The man then uncovered his face and said he was the district’s naib tehsildar. “I told him he should have told me who he was,” Khan said. “We had an argument then.”
The naib tehsildar Mahendra Singh Dangi went to the police station and registered a case against Khan for abusing him, tearing documents and threatening him. In his statement, Dangi said that he, along with Naib Tehsildar T Vishke and Municipal Revenue Inspector Mahesh Verma and three other officials had come to the bakery for an inspection when indecent language was used against him and they were obstructed from doing their work.
“We went there on the orders of the collector,” Dangi told Scroll.in. “We were told to check a few things and ensure he had all the permissions.”
A first information report was registered at the Kotwali police station the same day, under sections of the Indian Penal Code that relate to deterring a public servant from discharging his duty and using obscene language.
Khan denied this. “I even had a video of the incident,” Khan said. So when I was called to the police station I showed it to the officials and asked him where I had abused, threatened or torn documents.”
Khan claims that the April demolition of his unit was the consequence of mistaken identity. On April 10, when the situation became tense in Khargone as a result of the Ram Navami celebrations, Khan said that the police asked him to help maintain peace. “I stood at Talab Chowk and did not allow people to crowd around,” he said. “I told them they had no business to stare at the procession.”
But when he went to the Kotwali police station the next day to meet police officials, they told him that since he had been spotted in the CCTV footage he would not be spared. “I told them, of course I was visible, I was helping you all,” Khan said.
He said that there are five men named Amjad who own bakeries in Khargone, he said. “The administration was after the one who lived in Qazipura, I live in Gilani Nagar,” Khan said.
Khan said that despite the threats he received from police officials after the riots, he was not named in any cases about the violence from April 10. “I helped them, that is the truth,” he said.
A few days later, a unit of his bakery was demolished.
‘I will not take my case back’
Ever since Khan filed the court case, acquaintances and the government officials have repeatedly told him that he should withdraw the case, Khan “Every time they come and tell me I should take my case back, I tell them let them do and say whatever they want I will not take my case back,” he said.
Khargone sub-divisional magistrate Dhoke denied this and said due process had been followed.
Khan’s lawyer, advocate Ashhar Warsi said there has been little progress on their petition in the five months since it was filed. “Notices have been issued to the state government to submit their responses,” he said.
But Warsi remained hopeful. “We trust the judiciary,” he said.