Two weeks after a Muslim man’s home and three of his shops were demolished by the Dindori district administration in Madhya Pradesh as he had eloped with his Hindu neighbour, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed the police not to take any further action in a kidnapping case filed against him by the woman’s family, The Indian Express reported on Monday.
A single bench headed by Justice Nandita Dubey of the Jabalpur bench passed the order while hearing a petition filed by 22-year-old Sakshi Sahu, who had told the court that she had married Asif Khan of her own will.
“They submitted that they will get their marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act, as both of them are living together since 07.04.2022,” the bench said in its order. “It is further stated that being a citizen of India, they have a right to choose the life partner of their choice.”
The Madhya Pradesh Police had booked Khan, 22, on sections related to “kidnapping to compel the woman into marriage” of the Indian Penal Code on April 4 based on a complaint by Sahu’s brother, The Indian Express reported.
On April 7, the district administration had demolished three shops belonging to Khan’s family claiming that they were illegally constructed.
Hours after the demolition, a protest was held on National Highway 45 by former minister and district president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Narendra Singh Rajput, who had demanded that Khan’s home should be razed as well.
A team of district officials, including Collector Ratnakar Jha and Sub Divisional Magistrate Balbir Raman, had met the protestors, according to The Indian Express.
On April 8, Khan’s home was razed with 500 police personnel at the site. The administration had claimed that his home had been declared as “illegal” by local tehsildar BS Thakur.
Raman cited communal tensions in the village as a reason for the demolition drive. “People wanted the house to be razed,” he added, according to The Indian Express.
On April 9, Sahu in a video message had said that she had eloped with Khan willingly.
“I married Asif Khan despite opposition from my family,” she said. “My husband’s family is being falsely implicated. I married him of my own will but my family is misusing facts and foisting false cases on Asif’s family. They are being tortured, their house and shops have been demolished. I urge the chief minister to help me or else both my husband and I will commit suicide.”
In several states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power, demolitions have also been carried out in Muslim-majority neighbourhoods that had been hit by communal violence during Ram Navami processions on April 10.
On April 11, the Madhya Pradesh government demolished 45 buildings in response to communal violence in the state. Some of these houses belonged to Muslims who had been accused of rioting. In Gujarat too, the properties of people accused of rioting were razed.