August 7, 2023
Hundreds of houses, belonging to Muslims, were illegally demolished by the Haryana govt following communal riots in Nuh. The Punjab & Haryana High Court yesterday called it an act of "ethnic cleansing".
A thread on the gross violations in the demolition drive
On July 31, communal violence occurred in Nuh following a 'yatra' organised by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Two days later, the state authorities started demolishing Muslim-owned properties. Over 90 houses, 200 structures and shanties of 250 migrant workers were destroyed
Nuh SP Narendra Bijarniya's statement called it an "action against illegal constructions & individuals involved in anti-social activities". Police claims that CCTV footage was used to identify buildings from where stones were pelted on the rally.
Read the HIndu's coverage here.
But the court noted that the state used force and demolished buildings "belonging to a particular community" "under the guise of law and order problem." It also observed how the state home minister viewed the bulldozer as part of the ilaaj (treatment).
‘No notice was served before, they (authorities) didn’t even give us 5 minutes to take belongings before demolishing our houses,’ says Aas Mohammad, a 56-year-old local.
Authorities, reportedly, contend otherwise.
But does prior notice even matter?
The right to notice and hearing are basic rights under Art 14 of the constitution- put in place to ensure procedural safeguard against unjust state action. This has been laid down by the Supreme Court in 1985 through the Olga Tellis case.
More recently, Indian courts have also reiterated the right to be rehabilitated for evictees as an extension of the fundamental right to life. Through the 2010 Sudama Singh case, the Delhi HC has emphasised the traumatising impacts of homelessness.
The demolition drives in Nuh have not followed any due process. This violation of both fundamental and procedural rights was noted explicitly by the High Court in its order yesterday. The Court went as far as to note that this is an exercise of 'ethnic cleansing'.
Evictees claim that demolitions have taken place even from the private land. Mohammad Sahud, who lost his medical stores, stated "I have been the owner of this land in Nalhar since 1998 and have documents to show for it."
Internet shutdowns and curfews have been extended in the area to ‘stop the spread of misinformation’. Expert point out such measures only hurt the vulnerably poor from accessing help, especially legal aid, in the case of forced evictions and sudden arrests.
Affected persons are seeking out lawyers to at least claim compensation. Whereas the High Court intervened to stop the demolitions, 56 FIRs have been lodged and 156 people arrested on grounds of rioting and murder. The court will next hear the case on August 11.