India’s top court on Thursday refused to stop the government from bulldozing houses following the demolition of several homes of Muslims in retaliation for violent protests by the minority community.
The court said, hearing a petition to bring down illegally constructed residential complexes, “We cannot stop demolitions.” The Supreme Court responded to a case brought by Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. They claim that government officials have been punishing members of India’s 200-million-strong Islamic minority for participating in protests, saying demolitions should follow the law, not be retaliatory.
As a result of blasphemous remarks made by members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hardline party, protests erupted in several states on June 10. Demonstrators, mostly Muslims, demanded the arrest of BJP officials Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal for making the remarks. BJP officials fired both of them.
Police in India has demolished 45 houses belonging to Muslims under the pretext that they were illegally constructed. After holding the Muslims responsible for involvement in the riots, the officials began razing the properties and houses of Muslims.
It is not the first time in Indian history that Muslims have been subjected to state-sponsored persecution, particularly in Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, and Gujarat.
The father of Afreen Fatima, a prominent student activist, lived in one of the demolished homes in the Prayagraj district. Some of the protests turned violent due to the plans of her father, local politician Javed Mohammad.
According to a report by The Times of India, police in Uttar Pradesh have arrested 357 protesters since the demolitions. Families have voiced concern that their homes may still be destroyed under the Uttar Pradesh government’s policy, dubbed “bulldozer justice.”
On June 21, the Supreme Court will hear the case again, so the Uttar Pradesh government must respond to the allegations. Despite residents’ demands for an interim stay, the court said it would not stop the demolitions in the meantime and warned that more demolitions were imminent. Supreme Court justices A.S. Bhopanna and Vikram Nath said in their Thursday statement.
“We expect the authorities to follow the law at all times,” said one judge. The petitioners claim the demolitions were “illegal… shocking, and appalling,” and they seek legal action against the city officials who ordered the demolitions.
In a joint letter, several former judges and legal advocates asked the Chief Justice of India to address the “brutal clampdown” and “violation of citizens’ rights.” India faced a significant diplomatic backlash earlier this month from at least 15 majority-Muslim nations over the ruling party officials’ remarks against Islam’s prophet. Two Gulf states have called for a boycott of Indian products after logging official protests with India.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has been accused of deliberately marginalizing the country’s Muslims through controversial legislation and other methods. Modi and other party members deny allegations that they are fueling sectarianism.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, said India should immediately stop cracking down on Muslims who took to the streets to protest the ruling party official’s remarks. On Tuesday, Amnesty International’s Aakar Patel stated that authorities were “selectively and viciously” targeting Muslims who spoke out against discrimination.
A crackdown on protesters with excessive force, arbitrary detentions, and punitive house demolitions … will violate India’s commitments under international human rights law.”