Human Lives Human Rights: A young Muslim activist whose house was bulldozed by the authorities in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh was an act of “State sponsored terrorism” by the Indian government.
Authorities in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj city on Sunday brought in earthmovers to demolish Afreen Fatima’s house as dozens of media people recorded the demolition.
Within hours, the two-storey building was reduced to rubble and its belongings – furniture, books and photographs – thrown on an empty plot next to the house. Among them was a poster that said: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”
The demolition came after days of protests by Indian Muslims against the anti-Islam remarks by two members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) earlier this month, triggering a diplomatic backlash against New Delhi.
As several Muslim nations demanded an apology from the Indian government, the Muslims in India saw the remarks by the BJP’s Nupur Sharma and former Delhi media cell head Naveen Kumar Jindal as yet another instance of the right wing’s hate speech against the minority community which has spiked since Modi came to power in 2014.
As global outrage grew, the BJP suspended Sharma and expelled Jindal, saying their comments do not reflect the party’s views and asking its spokespeople to be “extremely cautious” on religious matters while speaking on news channels. Meanwhile, police in the Indian capital filed cases against the two and others for “inciting hatred” and other charges.
But Muslim groups said the moves were not enough and held large protests in several cities after the congregational prayers on Friday, demanding the arrest of the duo. Two teenagers were killed and dozens wounded in the protests. Hundreds of protesters were detained.
A BJP spokesperson said Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a saffron-robed hardline Hindu monk, ordered officials to demolish any “illegal” establishments and homes of people accused of involvement in the protests.
At least two other houses belonging to Muslims were also demolished in Uttar Pradesh over the weekend.
“We had been paying our house taxes for around 20 years and not once did we receive any intimation by any development authorities of Allahabad that our house is illegal. Why were they even taking our taxes if it was an illegal house?” Afreen Fatima told Al Jazeera.
The family shared water bills and house taxation documents to back their claim.
“We saw our house crumble down… It was our home for 21 years. We had some amazing and defining moments in that home that shaped who I am,” she said.
“We were not demonstrating on Friday. None of us were part of the protests that happened in Allahabad. We were at our house, it was a Friday, so we offered our prayers and were in the house all the time,” she said.