New Delhi, India – A prominent Muslim organisation has filed a plea in India’s top court, urging its intervention as properties of mainly Muslims accused of violence are bulldozed by the authorities in states governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the dangerous politics of bulldozers that have been started to destroy minorities especially Muslims under the guise of crime prevention in BJP-ruled states,” the group’s president, Arshad Madani, tweeted on Monday.
The petition urges the top court to issue directions to the federal and state governments that “no lasting precipitative action be taken against any accused in any criminal proceedings” and that residential buildings not be demolished as a punitive measure.
Last week, authorities in at least two states demolished dozens of homes and shops, almost all of them belonging to Muslims accused of violence during a Hindu festival.
In the central state of Madhya Pradesh, violence broke out during the Ram Navmi festival earlier this month.
Hindu devotees usually take out large processions on the day to celebrate the birth of their god Ram.
However, the processions this year saw saffron-clad Hindu men carrying swords, sticks and pistols as they marched through mainly Muslim neighbourhoods, raising slogans threatening genocide of the community, playing loud music outside mosques, and attacking homes and shops belonging to Muslims.
In Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh, violence erupted after nearly 10 houses and a mosque were set on fire during the Ram Navmi procession, forcing the police to impose a curfew. Violence was also reported from other Indian states during the festival.
A day later, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the “rioters have been identified” while the state’s home minister blamed Muslims for the violence.
“Those who have pelted stones will be punished but along with it they will be made to pay for the losses to both public and private properties,” Chouhan said.
Acting on cue from the top state leader, authorities in Khargone used bulldozers to demolish nearly 50 properties – most of them belonging to Muslims accused of inciting violence.
Similar demolitions were also reported from Modi’s home state of Gujarat following violence on Ram Navmi.
“The Madhya Pradesh government is only demolishing those structures which were erected over government lands. And if anybody feels that the law was violated, they are open to going to court,” BJP politician in Madhya Pradesh, Rajneesh Agarwal, told Al Jazeera on Monday.
But rights groups and legal experts have questioned the legality of the demolitions.
In a statement last week, Amnesty International said the demolitions “amount to collective punishment” of the minority community and called for a “thorough, impartial and transparent investigation” into the matter.
In its petition before the Supreme Court, the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind said the policy of using bulldozers has been “started to destroy minorities, especially Muslims, under the guise of crime prevention in BJP-ruled states”.
“The governments are doing what the courts used to do. It seems the rule of law in India is over now,” a statement released by the Muslim organisation said.
Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover said demolishing the property of a person accused of violence was “totally unconstitutional and illegal”.
“Actually there is no law which permits this kind of demolition. This person [accused] is a suspect at this juncture. The police or the administration is behaving like the judge, jury and the executor and is punishing the person,” she told Al Jazeera.
Majeed Memon, former parliamentarian and top criminal lawyer, agreed.
“Even if assuming that somebody has done some crime of rioting or any other crime, the chief minister or any of the persons from the administration has no right to punish,” he told Al Jazeera.
Memon said an accused should be presented before a court of law. “Ultimately it is the court that will decide the nature and quantum of punishment,” he said.
“This kind of so-called instant justice is similar to mob lynching.”