United Kingdom MP Nadia Whittome on Thursday questioned in the British Parliament if Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent visit to India had helped legitimise the demolitions carried out in various states by Bharatiya Janata Party administrations.
Whittome pointed out that during his visit to India, Johnson was photographed with a digger at a Vadodara factory of the heavy-construction equipment manufacturer JCB. This was just a day after a BJP-run civic body carried out a demolition drive in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri. Shops and houses, owned mostly by Muslims were bulldozed despite a stay order by the Supreme Court.
The demolitions took place four days after the April 16 Jahangirpuri communal clashes, in which eight police officials and a resident were injured.
Following the demolition in Jahangirpuri, BJP-run civic body in South Delhi too has threatened to press bulldozers into service to summarily demolish properties of residents alleged to have committed offences, even though they have not been convicted by a court or without giving them a chance to appeal.
In this form of collective punishment, entire families have been penalised for actions that a single member is alleged to have committed. There is no legal basis for such arbitrary action, experts say.
South Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor Mukesh Suryan, who gave the threat, however, does not have the power to order such actions.
“Local governments in a number of other Indian states have also carried out similar demolitions,” Whittome said on Thursday. “So I ask again, did the prime minister raise this with [Narendra] Modi? If not, why not? And does the minister accept that the prime minister’s visit to India has helped to legitimise the actions of Modi’s far-right government?”
Johnson posing with the bulldozer after the communal clashes had invoked criticism on social media. His action was described as ignorant by the non-profit organisation Amnesty International India. Ashok Swain, a professor at Uppsala University, had questioned if Johnson was trying to “legitimise India’s islamophobia” by posing with the bulldozer.
Demolitions have taken place in several Indian states in the first two weeks of April after communal clashes broke out on the Hindu festivals of Navratri and Ram Navami.
Hindutva outfits organised rallies in which armed participants shouted abusive, provocative slogans, as they passed by mosques or through Muslim-dominated areas in some states. Violence was reported in five states.
On April 11, the homes and properties of alleged rioters in Khargone in Madhya Pradesh were razed. In Gujarat, too, the Anand district administration on April 15 razed the homes of those it alleged were to blame for violence on Ram Navami.