In Nuh, Muslims Rendered Hopeless, Not Just Homeless
Demolition drive targeted shanties, buildings owned by Muslims in Haryana’s Nuh, say locals
Zubair Khan is standing on the rubble, which till a few days back, used to be a medical shop that he had rented out since 2013. On August 5 and 6, the Haryana administration started demolishing shanties and buildings owned by Muslims in Haryana’s Nuh, which on July 31 had seen violence clashes that claimed six lives.
Khan’s medical shop stood outside Shaheed Hasan Khan Mewati Government Medical College. “I am from Palwal and had gone back home the day after the violence since everything was shut and my family was concerned,” he told The Citizen.
Standing on the rubble, he is seen breaking the pillars that stood half broken. Khan rented out the shop in 2013 but said that the building existed way before that. The row which was demolished outside the hospital had many medical shops, and eateries to cater to people coming from different parts of Nuh for check-ups.
It now stands deserted with rubble strewn everywhere. For Khan, the loss is more than Rs 15 lakhs. “I just got a call from someone telling me that my shop was razed. Since then, today is the first time I came to the shop because I still had no idea whether it was safe to come or not,” Khan said.
Khan said, standing near the rubble, with some others who were helping him collect the remains of his stock, “I could not save anything. I do not know what I am going to do now.”.
On asking whether all shops belonged to Muslims, Ali, who was standing beside Khan said in affirmative. “They are just ruining people’s lives,” he added.
For Khan, the loss is too much and the administration bias is visible too. “They are just razing Muslim shops. If there were miscreants from both sides then find them and do whatever you want with them. Why are you ruining common people’s lives,” he said.
Khan said on the day of violence, his and all the other shops were open. During noon they saw chaos and people with weapons. “A lot of people, especially women, had taken shelter in the shops because things were tense here. The police, I am being told, said that I helped miscreants and razed the shop. There were CCTV cameras outside our shops, they could have seen everything on it and decided,” he added.
The hospital, which is still functioning, overlooks the hills. Meanwhile, outside the rubble stays on the deserted roads.
When The Citizen reached the ground, the police tried to chase a young Muslim boy who was walking along the road. The boy managed to run away, while the police rushed their car in search of him.
On asking whether he was a suspect, the police officials did not respond. Mustafa Badaf, a local resident, said that innocent men are being picked up every day. “Since the violence it has not stopped,” he added.
In a dingy clinic in Nuh, Badaf is speaking on the phone with someone. “One of my relatives’ restaurants was razed to the ground,” he said. Sahara Restaurant, the visual of which went viral on social media, is now a huge pile of rubble. A three-storey building, the restaurant was demolished on Sunday. The Citizen tried to reach the owner Atil whose wife informed us that he had not been well.
Badaf said that it has been a heartbreak for the family. “They had all the papers but the administration paid no heed. The whole structure is built within the rules. I am surprised that the structure was razed,” he added.
He also said that selectively attacking Muslims is going to create fear and tensions. “They should have at least seen papers of people who actually had valid documents,” Badaf added.
Just near the restaurant, Yaqat is cleaning his now half broken shop. A tile and construction shop, Yaqat’s three storey building was half demolished but the court’s intervention had stopped the full demolition.
“The pillars are all damaged,” he said as workers were busy storing material from the shop to the basement. “We are waiting for things to get back to normal,” he added. Yaqat said that he had all the paperwork but they received no notice, hence he was not able to show anything.
“I had no idea that the demolition was taking place. It was when the demolitions started that some journalists rang me up informing me this was happening. By the time I rushed they had broken the side walls,” he said.
Yaqat said he is going to approach the court regarding this. Hundreds of shanties lay demolished all around Nuh city, especially near the area where the violence took place.
Yaqat’s shop is joined with Anish’s shop. On the day of violence, Anish had saved two Bajrang Dal members when the violence had escalated. “He gave them food and water after which they went on the terrace to see what the situation was like, however, police caught that on their CCTV and claimed that stones were pelted from his shop,” Yaqat said.
Yaqat said that Anish’s shop was bulldozed for saving those who had been part of the rally. “No Hindu structure has been razed. So, they are just attacking Musims,” Khan said.
While the curfew continued in Nuh, tensions still remained.
Dr. Mohammed Rafiq, an activist and resident of Nuh said that the administration's action was wrong. “The miscreants were from both sides but why are only Muslim structures being razed. The violence was escalated by outsiders and they have already left. It is not the common person who is suffering,” he said.
Dr. Rafiq, who earned his PhD from Jamia also said that on July 31, the Haryana Police also shot at his house. “I still have the bullets from that day,” he added. He added that the actions of the administration only mean that they want “Muslims to be second class citizens in their own country.”
Meanwhile, questioning the demolition drive in Nuh, the Punjab and Haryana High Court Monday asked whether properties of a “particular community” were targeted “under the guise of a law-and-order problem”, and an “exercise of ethnic cleansing” was being conducted.
Pointing to reports that demolition orders and notices were not issued, the Division Bench of Justices G S Sandhawalia and Harpreet Kaur Jeewan said, “If any such demolition is to be carried out today, it should be stopped if the procedure is not followed as per law”.
The court asked the state government to file an affidavit on how many buildings had been demolished, and if any notice was issued before demolition. The Citizen found no notices from the owners of any of the structures that were demolished till now.
Meanwhile, taking suo motu cognisance of reports in ‘The Indian Express’ and ‘Times of India’, the Court said, “It has come to our notice that the State of Haryana is using force and is demolishing buildings on account of the fact that some riots have occurred in Gurugram and Nuh.
“Apparently, without any demolition orders and notices, the law and order problem is being used as a ruse to bring down buildings without following the procedure established by law. The issue also arises whether the buildings belonging to a particular community are being brought down under the guise of law and order problem and an exercise of ethnic cleansing is being conducted by the State.
“We are of the considered opinion that the Constitution of India protects the citizens of this country and no demolitions as such can be done without following the procedure prescribed in law. Accordingly, we issue directions to the State of Haryana to furnish an affidavit as to how many buildings have been demolished in the last two weeks, both in Nuh and Gurugram, and whether any notice was issued before demolition,” it said.
Citing the news reports, the court also said, “The action is stated to be on account of the fact that the individuals involved in the anti-social activities had made illegal constructions… buildings next to the hospital in the form of commercial buildings, residential buildings, restaurants which were in existence for a long time have been brought down by bulldozers.
“The news item also says that the Home Minister himself has said that bulldozers are part of illaj (treatment) since the government is probing communal violence… Lord Acton has stated ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.”
Setting the next hearing for August 11, the Bench appointed Advocate Kshitij Sharma as amicus curiae to assist the Court. There were also reports that shanties were razed that belonged to Rohingya refugees in Nuh.
Nuh Superintendent of Police Narender Bijarniya told the media that a demolition drive was carried out on the properties held by some of the refugees because they were “illegally occupying” Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran land in Taru.
“We have identified a list of them who were involved in the violence and we have evidence for it and based on it the teams have arrested them," Bijarniya said while speaking to ‘Hindustan Times’.
Lawyers have also confirmed to The Citizen that Rohingya refugees were also picked up by the police.
According to the reports, local police have said that they have identified suspects related to the Nuh violence from among the Rohingya refugees who were allegedly involved in the violence in the area, also claiming that these refugee camps, where the Rohingya have been living since years, were in fact encroachments.
The Rohingya are largely Muslim refugees from Rakhine State who fled their homeland due to religious persecution by the Myanmar government in 2017. Over 16,000 UNHCR-certified Rohingya refugees reside in India. The government estimates that at least 40,000 Rohingyas are present across India.
Known as the “Uttar Pradesh model” bulldozers have become a symbol to attack the minorities. “Both UP and Madhya Pradesh went on a rampage and Haryana is using that here. The model is a narrative where the minorities are the ones who become the victims,” Dr. Rafiq added.
Meanwhile, Haryana's District Public Relations Officer (DPRO) on Monday said that normal life has started to restore in the violence-hit areas. However, the situation was different on ground with deserted roads and shut shops, except a few medical and grocery shops open.
When The Citizen was on ground, the police deployment increased drastically with cars not being allowed to enter the area. It was later learnt that the security had increased as a delegation from Congress was on its way to Nuh.
A nine-member delegation of senior Haryana Congress leaders, which was visiting the violence-affected areas, was stopped by the police on Tuesday near Rewasan village, citing prohibitions under Section 144 CrPC that are in place and security concerns.
The delegation included Congress MP Deepender Hooda and the party's state unit chief Udai Bhan who was heading the team. Speaking to the media, Hooda said that they “wanted to meet victims of the violence and appeal for peace.”
“Our delegation wants to visit Nuh City, Nalhar Mandir, and markets. We want to speak to everyone...There is a lot of police deployment. Had this been done earlier, there would not have been the clashes,” he added.
Earlier on Sunday, a four-member delegation of the Communist Party of India (CPI), including CPI Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam, CPI general secretary Amarjeet Kaur, party MP Sandosh Kumar P, and party leader Dariyav Singh Kashyap, was also stopped by the police citing the same reasons.
The district of Nuh saw communal violence on July 31, during a yatra organised by the VHP and Bajrang Dal. Six persons, including two home guards, were killed in the clashes.
According to the state government, around 156 people have been arrested and 56 FIRs registered so far in connection with the violence and rioting in Nuh district.
On Monday, amidst heavy police presence, Mewati Student Union of Jamia Millia Islamia called for a protest in solidarity to denounce the recent outbreak of violence in Nuh.
The student union demanded for accountability and an end to the cycle of violence that has left the Nuh region in shambles.
All Photographs NIKITA JAIN