UN Special Rapporteurs condemn home demolitions in India, see it as collective punishment of Muslims

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Three United Nations Special Rapporteurs – for Housing, Minority Issues, and Freedom of Religion – have written a letter to the Narendra Modi-led Indian government strongly criticizing and protesting against arbitrary housing and property demolitions, ordered by local governments to punish the Muslims for inter-communal conflict between Hindus and Muslims.

The local BJP governments have demolished scores of houses and other properties of Muslims in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh, Anand in Gujarat and Jehangirpuri in Delhi during and after religious processions in April and May 2022.

In April and May during Hindu festivals, Hindutva activists had deliberately took out their procession from the Muslim areas and shouted slogans in front of mosques while Muslims were offering prayers. These provocative actions had led to communal clashes and subsequently instead of punishing the extremist Hindus, the BJP governments in these states had arrested several Muslim and demolished their homes, shops and other properties.
The special rapporteurs’ letter maintains that the Indian government has carried out “collective punishment” against the minority Muslim community. It is said to cite quotations from the Madhya Pradesh home minister and senior state officials as proof of vindictive intention.

Three special rapporteurs in their letter to the Modi government also questioned the recent use of bulldozers by the authorities across India.

Although the letter is dated June 9 and thus does not include references to demolitions carried out last week by the Uttar Pradesh government in Allahabad, Saharanpur and elsewhere. However, one of the signatories – Balakrishnan Rajagopal, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing – in an interview said the latest actions directed against the Muslims appear to be part of the same disturbing pattern.

The letter says demolitions have been carried out without due process and without establishing proof of guilt.

It merits to mention here that Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, had told officials to take action against those guilty (Muslims) so that it sets an example so that no one commits a crime and takes law into their hands in future.

The home minister of Madhya Pradesh, Narottam Mishra had also said “the houses from where the stones were pelted, we will turn those houses into piles of stone”.

When asked by a reporter as how as the UN special reporter on the right to housing views these comments by the chief minister of a BJP state and the home minister of a BJP state, Balakrishnan Rajagopal said he cannot say what might have prompted such comments or what their intentions might be. “But legally speaking, I can say that home demolitions are against the law generally in any country and certainly in India, unless they are for non-political reasons – such as for example a technical violation of building codes – and after following a fair procedure, followed by law or and after affording for example an opportunity for people concerned to be able to contest the decisions.

Therefore, the statements, unfortunately, give the appearance that those requirements under the law are not very important.”
The three rapporteurs have asked the Modi government to share with them the basis on which it has acted, the investigations it has carried out and whether any prior consultation was held with the affected community. The Indian government has 60 days to respond.