Authorities in four Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states and one Aam Aadmi Party-governed state punitively bulldozed 128 structures, mostly belonging to Muslims, between April and June 2022, said Amnesty International in reports published on Wednesday.
The two reports, “If you speak up, your house will be demolished’: Bulldozer Injustice in India” and “Unearthing Accountability: JCB’s Role and Responsibility in Bulldozer Injustice in India”, show that BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh reported the highest number of “punitive demolitions” at 56.
This was followed by 36 demolitions in Gujarat and 25 in Aam Aadmi Party-ruled Delhi. Eight properties in Assam were razed during the period and three in Uttar Pradesh.
Amnesty International found that authorities in all five states had used “targeted demolitions” and “forced evictions” as a form of “extrajudicial and collective and arbitrary punishment and retaliation against Muslims speaking against injustices and discrimination they were facing”.
The organisation stated that such demolitions are prohibited under international human rights law and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which India is a state party.
The human rights organisation investigated 63 of the 128 demolitions in-depth by interviewing the residents of the structures, legal experts and journalists. Researchers found that protests by Muslims and violent clashes between protestors and the police had been reported before the demolitions.
The organisation found that senior political and executive officials in these states had, a day before the demolitions were carried out, called for the targeted bulldozing of properties belonging to persons suspected of participating in protests and violence.
In June 2022, for instance, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath reportedly threatened that bulldozers would continue to crush “criminals and mafia” after protests in Prayagraj against the disrespectful remarks BJP spokespersons had made about Prophet Muhammad turned violent.
On the same day, state authorities demolished the house of activist Javed Mohammed who organised some of the protests. He was also arrested for carrying out violent protests in Prayagraj against two BJP spokespersons who made disparaging remarks about Prophet Muhammad.
Amnesty International also found that the demolitions were carried out without following any due process safeguards. State governments did not offer any prior consultation, adequate notice or alternative resettlement opportunities to the affected parties before demolitions, it said.
Besides being rendered homeless, several Muslims were also assaulted by police officials when they questioned the demolitions. The report stated that this was a violation of their human rights enshrined in the Constitution as well as international human rights law.
“The unlawful demolition of Muslim properties by the Indian authorities, peddled as ‘bulldozer justice’ by political leaders and media, is cruel and appalling,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. “Such displacement and dispossession is deeply unjust, unlawful and discriminatory. They are destroying families and must stop immediately.”
The international organisation alleged that the demolitions were carried out with widespread impunity, citing the bulldozing of 15 structures at Mira Road in Maharashtra after a rally commemorating the Ram temple consecration turned violent on January 21.
On January 23, the civic body in Mira-Bhayandar, a municipality near Mumbai, bulldozed “illegal” structures in the Naya Nagar area of Mira Road where communal violence was reported ahead of the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
A day after the action, Amnesty urged the Indian authorities to immediately stop their discriminatory policy of using demolition drives to target Muslims.