Several leading Indian newspapers on Thursday focussed on the term “bulldozers” in their coverage of the demolition drive in Delhi’s Muslim-dominated Jahangirpuri area to highlight the sobriquet of “bulldozer government” earned by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The nickname is being used as several of the saffron party leaders have arbitrarily called for demolition of “illegal structures” in various states. Leaders like Adityanath have even said that the “bulldozer brand” is quite effective. However, the structures that are razed most often belong to Muslims.
The demolition drive in Jahangirpuri was undertaken by the BJP-ruled North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
While the Supreme Court had issued a directive to halt the demolition, the drive only stopped after Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat had brought an electronic copy of the order to the area herself. The officials present at the site had claimed that they had not received the order.
The Indian Express said “Bulldozers roll, raze in Jahangirpuri in the face of Supreme Court order” on its front page. The newspaper pointed out that the action by the civic body in Jahangirpuri “flies in the face” of its usual practice of sending a notice at least five days in advance in cases of encroachment.
“The bylaws state that the notice has to be given to the person who has carried out the alleged illegal construction,” it wrote. “During this time, the person can be asked to make alterations, failing which the civic body has the power to demolish or seal the structure”
Several people in Jahangirpuri had pointed out that no notice was served to them before the civic body had decided to raze their structures.
The front page of the Hindustan Times carried a headline indicating that the government had been razing illegal structures in several parts of India. “Now, bulldozers run riot in N [North] Delhi,” the newspaper said in its headline.
The drive was organised four days after the area had witnessed a clash between members of Hindu and Muslim communities during a Hanuman Jayanti procession. A total of 23 people have been arrested and two juveniles have been detained in connection with the violence. The majority of those arrested are Muslims.
The newspaper mentioned that several BJP-ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka have recently ordered the razing of properties in towns that were roiled by communal violence or criminal activity. “And have later argued that these were part of drives against illegal construction,” it said.
The front page of The Hindu carried the report using a photograph of a bulldozer near the mosque which was at the centre of the clashes that took place on April 16.
The local Muslims had alleged that the Hindu revellers, carried away by the festivities, had tried to enter the mosque. Hindus who were part of the procession, however, insisted that people from inside the mosque and the adjoining Muslim colony had attacked them with stones.
Several newspapers had also focused on the chaos that ensued as the demolition had continued unabated two hours after the court order.
In its Delhi edition, The Times of India said that the demolition drive in Jahangirpuri had continued for one and a half hours.
The newspaper carried a timeline of events starting from 10.15 am when the first bulldozer had arrived at the scene till Karat had reached the area with the Supreme Court order. It also published reactions from political leaders, including those of Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, BJP’s Anurag Thakur and Kapil Mishra, and Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia.
The Telegraph on its front page said that the bulldozer drives had become the “BJP’s political signature”. The newspaper ran the story with a headline saying “...Another beast runs amok: The Bulldozer”.
Hindi daily Amar Ujala in its Delhi edition focused on the stay order by the Supreme Court. Its headline read: “Supreme break on bulldozers in Jahangirpuri”.
The Delhi edition of Dainik Bhaskar summarised the events of the day, emphasising that the demolitions continued even after the Supreme Court stayed them. Its headline stated: “Jahangirpuri saw a bulldozer run, it stopped an hour and a half after Supreme Court orders”
The newspaper also quoted the North Delhi mayor Iqbal Singh as saying that unauthorised constructions on government land can be removed without serving any notice to the occupants.
Hindi daily Dainik Jagran, however, claimed that “illegal properties” of “miscreants” who were involved in the alleged attack on the Hanuman Jayanti procession in Jahangirpuri were demolished on Wednesday.
It reported that the demolition was stopped “some time” after the Supreme Court ordered a stay. The newspaper claimed that the demolition also caused a stir amongst settlements of “Bangladeshi intruders”, who attempted to cause hindrance to the drive but could not do so due to heavy police presence.
“When the Bulldozers started to return, members of one community started to pelt stone on police personnel,” the newspaper wrote in the report. “Police detained two people and took them in their vehicle.”
Gujarat’s leading daily Gujarat Samachar carried a standalone photo and an elaborate caption on the front page talking about how the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, the Delhi Police and the Central Reserve Police Force undertook the demolition drive in Jahangirpuri. It added that the demolition had continued despite opposition from locals.
The newspaper, however, made no mention of the backdrop of the case or that the majority of people, who suffered because of the demolition, were Muslims.
In Kolkata, the Anandabazar Patrika carried the story as its anchor piece. The newspaper’s top story was the Global Business Summit held in West Bengal.
Notably, the daily mentioned Karat in its headline and credited her for stopping the demolition drive. Its headline said: “Bulldozers in Jahangirpuri in spite of Supreme Court stay orders, Brinda stops them”.
The article led with the fact that after Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, bulldozers were put into action in Delhi too.
Another Bengal daily Sangbad Pratidin carried the story briefly in a single column. Here too, the newspaper’s main focus was on the business summit.
The newspaper reported that at least 50 houses and shops were razed in Jahangirpuri even as the Supreme Court had asked the operation to be stopped. The report also mentioned that counsels told the Supreme Court that properties belonging to a particular community were being targeted.
In Aajkaal, the news story about the demolition had appeared on page five. The Bengali language newspaper had said that much like in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the minority community was “punished” by the BJP on allegations of creating a nuisance.
In Maharashtra’s leading dailies Lokmat and Loksatta, the front pages reported the incident noting that the civic authorities in the national Capital did not pay heed to the Supreme Court’s stay order. They also mentioned that no notice was given to residents of the area regarding the demolition.
Meanwhile, the Urdu daily The Inquilab’s headline read: “Bulldozers in Jahangirpuri too, atmosphere of chaos prevails, supreme court’s order ignored”. The story also mentioned that the court order were issued after based on a petition by Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind.
The newspaper also said that Karat set up a camp in Jahangirpuri and stood in front of a bulldozer.
Another Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Rashtriya Sahara ran the story in its Delhi edition with a focus on the Supreme Court’s stay on the demolition. “In Delhi’s communal-violence hit Jahangirpuri, Supreme Court stays the bulldozers,” read its front-page headline.