Human rights organisation Amnesty International on Wednesday said the widespread “unlawful demolitions” of Muslims’ homes, businesses and places of worship through the use of JCB bulldozers and other machines must stop immediately.
In two companion reports, titled “If you speak up, your house will be demolished: Bulldozer Injustice in India” and “Unearthing Accountability: JCB’s Role and Responsibility in Bulldozer Injustice in India”, the rights group documented the “punitive demolition” of Muslim properties in at least five states with a widespread use of JCB-branded bulldozers or diggers as the brand of choice in a hate campaign against the minority community.
The impunity in carrying out these acts was evident in the demolitions that took place in Mumbai’s Mira road after a Hindu mob turned violent against Muslim residents during a Ram Temple Rally last month.
The 600 -year- old Akhunji Masjid in Mehrauli was also razed to the ground later, this month.
Amnesty International called on the Centre and state governments to immediately halt the de-facto policy of demolishing people’s homes as a form of extra-judicial punishment and ensure that nobody is made homeless as a result of forced evictions.
“The unlawful demolition of Muslim properties by the Indian authorities, peddled as ‘bulldozer justice’ by political leaders and media, is cruel and appalling. Such displacement and dispossession is deeply unjust, unlawful and discriminatory. They are destroying families — and must stop immediately,” said Agn s Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general.
“The authorities have repeatedly undermined the rule of law, destroying homes, businesses or places of worship, through targeted campaigns of hate, harassment, violence and the weaponization of JCB bulldozers. These human rights abuses must be urgently addressed,” he added.
Amnesty has also communicated with the JCB brand officials regarding the matter.
The JCB spokesperson claimed that they were unaware of how their products are being used or abused after sale.
However, Amnesty asked them to regulate the distribution of their services, and condemn the widespread anti-Muslim hate projects flourishing in their name.
According to Amnesty’s research findings, between April and June 2022, the authorities in five states including BJP-ruled Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) governed state of Delhi, demolition drives were carried out as a punitive measure against Muslim protesters following incidents of collective violence or systemic discrimination against them.
The investigation confirms that at least 617 people, including men, women, children and older persons, were rendered homeless or deprived of their livelihoods, after thoroughly examining 63 of 128 documented cases of demolitions.
Most of the evictions and destruction are carried out under the guise of remedying illegal construction and encroachment.
In spite of the hardships created by the loss of their homes and businesses, victims continue to wait for justice with legal cases pending in courts.
Apart from the reports, Amnesty’s specialist Evidence Lab has created an interactive digital database showcasing evidence of dozens of punitive demolitions targeting Muslim property using JCB machines, including 360-degree images of the sites, videos, testimonies, court orders and geospatial data.