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Uttar Pradesh Government Demolishes 'Illegal' House Of Prayagraj Violence Accused

Properties of two people accused of rioting were demolished on Saturday in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur.

A bulldozer razing a structure in Delhi PTI Photo/Shahbaz Khan

The Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) on Sunday demolished the house of Javed alias Pump, who is allegedly the mastermind of violent protests in Prayagraj on Friday in which mobs set on fire motorcycles and carts and also attempted to set ablaze a police vehicle besides pelting stones at police personnel over former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nupur Sharma's comments on Prophet Muhammad. 

Police used tear gas and lathis to disperse the protesters and restore peace. A policeman was injured, according to officials.

A senior PDA official told PTI that demolition orders were issued on May 25 after Javed or his lawyer did not appear in court to defend their case initiated on May 10. 

This official said, "Javed Ahmad's house —JK Ashiyana— is located in the Kareli area of Prayagraj. Police force and a JCB machine reached the Kareli police station around 10.30 am and demolition commenced around 1 pm.

"The house was built without getting its map passed by the PDA. For this, he was issued a notice on May 10 and was told to present his point of view on May 24. On the said date, neither Javed nor his lawyer turned up. No document was presented in this regard, and hence on May 25, demolition orders were issued."

Senior Superintendent of Police (Prayagraj) Ajay Kumar said the police also searched the house and found many objectionable items that were seized. These items, will be included in the investigation, include two country-made pistols and several live cartridges.

He added that some papers were also recovered in which objectionable remarks have been made by Javed on the courts.

Kumar had on Saturday said alleged mastermind of stone-pelting Javed Ahmad had been arrested. In all, 304 people have been arrested across the state for violence on Friday. Besides Prayagraj, violence was also witnessed in Saharanpur and at least four other districts. 

On Saturday, the properties of two people accused of rioting were demolished in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur where stone-pelting had taken place as well on Friday.

Superintendent of Police, City (Saharanpur), Rajesh Kumar had said two accused who created ruckus have been identified through CCTV footage as Muzammil, a resident of Rahat Colony, 62 Futa Road, and Abdul Vakir, a resident of Khata Khedi. He added the municipal corporation teams bulldozed their illegal properties.

In a tweet in Hindi on Saturday, Mrityunjay Kumar, the media adviser to the chief minister, had said, "Unruly elements remember, every Friday is followed by a Saturday" and posted a photo of a bulldozer demolishing a building.

These are not the first instances of using bulldozers to raze properties of accused in Uttar Pradesh. The trend pre-dates the 2022 UP assembly elections in which Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was hailed as 'Bulldozer Baba' and supporters mounted a bulldozer in celebrating the BJP victory.

Beginning from UP, the demolition drives have spread to Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and even the national capital Delhi, where while little demolition took place, people in areas where bulldozer rolled told Outlook a message was conveyed. Critics have also questioned the legal basis of such drives.

Senior Advocate Devadutt Kamat wrote, "The demolition as a remedial measure of state action against an accused is completely unsanctioned in Indian law. There is absolutely no penal legislation in the country that provides for demolition as a penalty of any offence."

He noted in his article for Deccan Herald that while there are provisions for razing illegal structures, the idea of demolitions in response to alleged crimes appears to be "collective punishment" which is banned under Geneva Convention of 1949, which was ratified by India in 1950.

He further wrote, "The conduct of demolition drives, as a retaliatory measure, even with the avowed object to curb violence is a clear act of subversion of the principle of rule of law."

In Delhi, a bulldozer rolled through Shaheen Bagh in May, which was the epicentre of anti-CAA/NRC movement. While no demolition took place, a local activist told Outlook that "bulldozer politics" is a tool to create a narrative against Muslims.

"All these recent bulldozer politics of the BJP government is nothing but to create a narrative that anything illegal is associated with Muslims and it’s becoming an increasingly threatening gimmick. It’s probably a warning message for those who rage against the government," said Aimmam Rizwi, a social activist.

Aslan, a student activist told Outlook, "There are over 1,600 illegal encroachments across Delhi. More than half the population in the city stay in unauthorised colonies. Why are they only making Muslim-dominated areas their target?"

(With PTI inputs)

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