Till last month, the market in Nuh town was bustling with activity. Hundreds of fruit vendors, chaat stalls, kiosks selling juice and biscuits lined up on either side of Delhi-Alwar highway that runs through the Haryana town. Now they are all gone.

On August 6, bulldozers rumbled through the town and removed all the stalls, kiosks and carts apart from demolishing around 30 permanent shops and a four-storey hotel across a distance of 1.5 km, said local businessmen.

Mohammad Sharaf, the 60-year-old sarpanch of Adbar village on the outskirts of Nuh town abutting the highway, said 200 street vendors were pushed off the stretch, with their carts and kiosks.

“That day, we were at home due to the curfew and no one told us that bulldozers were removing our shops,” said Sarfu, 65, a small-time mechanic, who said he has been running his business from a tin shed for the last 30 years.

Sarfu said he had suffered a loss of Rs 50,000. “I had my tools and a welding machine here. When I came here the next day, there were just scraps of tin and iron left behind,” he said. Like many other small-time vendors, he did not have any documents for the land where his shop stood.

Nuh town was put under curfew on August 1, a day after communal violence broke out as a religious procession led by the Hindutva outfit Vishwa Hindu Parishad passed through the districts of Gurugram and Nuh. The violence had been preceded by rumours that a notorious cow vigilante, Monu Manesar, accused in the death of two men in neighbouring Rajasthan, would be a part of the procession.

The communal violence left six people dead. As Scroll had reported earlier, many agreed that the first act of direct violence was from the Muslim side. Three days after the procession, the bulldozers began to roll – for four continuous days, till the Punjab and Harayana stayed the demolitions across Nuh district. The district administration said the demolition drive was targeted at “illegal encroachments” in several villages and towns of the Muslim-majority district.

Scroll visited five places in and around the epicentre of the July 31 violence in Nuh to assess the scale of demolitions. From Tauru to Nuh town to Nalhar and Nagina villages and Firozpur Jhirka, the map of the demolition drive we saw spanned at least 50 kilometres. The shops and homes brought down were both temporary and permanent structures.

Sarfu, a 65-year-old mechanic, rummages through the remains of his workshop along the Nuh highway.

While travelling through Nuh district, and speaking to those affected by the demolitions, a pattern emerged. Except in Firozpur Jhirka, all the buildings demolished belonged to Muslims, many of them landless and poor.

In Pinangwan, a town 33 km to the south-east of Nuh, authorities demolished the house of 55-year-old Saleem Qureshi, who works as an agent with a local lawyer on August 5.

“The officials told me that my house was located on panchayat land,” he told Scroll over the phone. Qureshi said he had lived all his life in that house. His father had moved to the town after migrating from a village in Rajasthan.

Congress legislator from Nuh Chaudhary Aftab Ahmed alleged that the government “used bulldozers to hide their failure in preventing the riots”. “They demolish houses and shops to punish the accused without going by the lawbook. They want to hurt the [Muslim] community economically and politically,” he said.

In its order, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had commented on the alleged targeting of the Muslim community. “The issue also arises whether the buildings belonging to a particular community are being brought down under the guise of law and order problem and an exercise of ethnic cleansing is being conducted by the State,” the division bench of Justices G S Sandhawalia and Harpreet Kaur Jeewan said.

While the district administration did not disclose the number of structures demolished across Nuh, officials, who did not want to be identified, told Scroll that the number was close to 500. The Hindustan Times, while citing two people “with direct knowledge of the matter”, had pegged the number at 1,208 buildings and other structures.

An official at Nuh District commissioner’s office, who requested anonymity, said that the government “had no prior plan to take such an action”.

“But after the riots directions came from the top to conduct demolitions,” the official said. “It was a collaboration of different agencies – the forest department, the Nuh municipality, the rural development department and urban bodies.”

Only unauthorised structures were demolished in the drive, the official claimed.

However, Scroll met residents who said their houses had been built under government schemes, raising questions about the administration’s claims.

Residents of Dhobi Ghat in Nagina village hold up their ration cards.


Dhobi Ghat is a small habitation of around 50 Muslim families – most of whom have ration cards that certify they live below the poverty line – in Nagina village, 25 km to the south of Nuh town.

On the afternoon of August 4, the second day of the demolition drive, when the men of the village had returned from their prayers, hundreds of police and paramilitary forces arrived at the locality. The bulldozers then went about demolishing the houses. According to Nasim Ahmad, sarpanch of Nagina, 10 houses were razed.

A week later what remains is dust, broken bricks, scraps of tin and some wooden planks. The walls of a few houses are standing. “We have no roof over our head. We have been sleeping on cots under trees for a week,” said Israel, 55, whose house is among those demolished in the drive.

Several of the residents of the village claimed that their houses had been built with government assistance.

Israel pointed to the half-broken wall of his house, where an incomplete Hindi inscription was visible: “Priya Darshani Awas Yojna (PAY) Haryana Sarkar: Labarthi ka Naam; Kul Raashi: 910…”.

The house, Israel said, was constructed under the Priyadarshini Awaas Yojna, a 2013 scheme of the state government that aimed to provide pucca houses to two lakh poor families from rural Haryana.

“The sarpanch of the village at the time sanctioned this land and house to me in 2013-14,” he said as he showed an undated letter addressed to the district commissioner seeking release of the third installment. “I received around Rs 90,000 in three installments,” he said as he showed an undated letter addressed to the district commissioner seeking release of the third installment.

Nuh deputy commissioner Dhirendra Khadgata did not respond to calls from Scroll, asking if houses built under government schemes had been razed.

The residents of Nuh affected by the demolitions asked why they were not served any notices and questioned the timing of the drive – in the immediate aftermath of the riots. They denied being involved in the violence in Nuh on July 31.

“They say our houses were illegal but why did they bulldoze it now?” asked Liaqat, a resident in Nagina. “Why did they punish us for violence which we had got nothing to do with?”


A day after flattening homes in Nagina, the demolition drive reached Nalhar, a sparsely populated village in the foothills of the Aravallis, a kilometre to the west of Nuh town.

Fourteen homes and 45 shops were brought down in a few hours, said Mohammad Azad, sarpanch of Nalhar.

Among the shops demolished were pharmacies, medical laboratories, grocery stories, eateries and a bakery situated on the road leading to the Shaheed Hasan Khan Mewati Government Medical College, said local residents and shopkeepers.

A resident of Nalhar village, Aas Mohammad, stands on the remains of his demolished home.

Nawab Abdul Rashid, a 50-year-old resident of Nuh, said that 18 shops he owned had been brought down in the demolition drive in Nalhar. He had constructed them in 2013 and then given them on rent to businessmen. “No one stopped me from constructing the shops. No one ever raised any objections,” said Rashid. “How did the shops suddenly become illegal?”

Among the structures demolished was the house of Khurshidan, a 60-year-old widow who lives in Nalhar with her daughter and son-in-law. She said that they had made renovations to their house a month ago.

According to Azad, the forest department had issued notices an hour before the demolition but the residents Scroll spoke to did not receive any forwarnings. Azad said he could not share the notices due to an internet shutdown.

Firozpur Jhirka

On August 4, the authorities also demolished an entire neighbourhood – home to both Hindus and Muslims – in the outskirts of Firozpur Jhirka town, 50 km from Nuh.

According to Umar Padla, a community leader in Firozpur Jhirka, around 90-100 houses on Jhir Road were brought down in a span of a few hours. When Scroll visited, the entire neighbourhood was in ruins, with only some walls standing.

The inhabitants of the neighborhood, who lived in one-story brick houses, said they have been living there for decades after migrating from different parts of Haryana and Rajasthan. Most of them are daily-wage labourers.

In Firozpur Jhirka, residents camp outside the night, days after their homes were razed.

Local residents said that the announcements were made from police vehicles asking them to remove their valuables before two bulldozers demolished each house one by one.

“They did not spare even our latrines and broke the water supply pipes as well,” said Puran Singh, a daily-wage labourer.

His neighbour Abdur Rehman said the officials did not serve any notices before demolishing their houses.

According to Mohammad Yusuf, an advocate in Firozpur Jhirka, “the residents of the neighbourhood had been claiming ownership rights over the land, and hearings were being held at the sub-divisional magistrate’s court.”

He added: “But the demolitions were carried because of directions from the top, notwithstanding the case that has been going on for the last two years.”

Sub-divisional magistrate of Firozpur Jhirka, Chinar Chahal, did not respond to Scroll’s queries on the demolition.


The first place that saw demolitions in the aftermath of riots was a camp of rag-pickers from Assam in Tauru town, 20 km north of Nuh.

On August 3 morning, officials, aided by hundreds of police and paramilitary forces arrived with bulldozers and removed a camp of 35 shanties, according to Mohammad Shazian, an eyewitness who lives in a shanty on the plot near the camp. His home, he says, is on a private plot owned by a local resident. He said the camp was set up on a half-acre plot.

“They were given 10 minutes to save their valuables,” said Shazian.

The next day, the rag-pickers fled to their villages in Assam. Shazain said that all those who lived in the camp were Muslim. He trashed the media reports that the camp inhabitants were Rohingya refugees. “This is all a lie,” he said.

Officials in Tauru said that the action was taken by Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran or HSVP, the state’s urban development body which has its head office in Faridabad. “We did not issue orders for demolitions. It was done by HSVP,” said Sanjeev Kumar, sub-divisional magistrate of Tauru.

All photographs by Zafar Aafaq.