Friday, April 12, 2024

Govt says neighbors’ complaint led to Afreen’s house demolition, locals say “don’t know neighbors”

In response to a petition from the family of prominent Muslim activists Javed Mohammad and Afreen Fatima challenging the demolition of their house in Allahabad, the Uttar Pradesh government informed the Allahabad High Court that the action was taken as a result of complaints from residents regarding “illegal construction” and its “misuse.”

In its affidavit submitted to the High Court on Thursday, the UP government also said the building —39C/2A/1 in Kareli area of Prayagraj — “was occupied by one Mr. Javed Mohammad which is apparent from the nameplate… installed on the boundary wall of the building on which ‘Javed M’ was written, and above the boundary wall there was a signboard showing ‘Welfare Party of India,” reported Indian Express.

Through the petition, the family said the house was demolished by the Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) “without following due process,” Praveen Fatima, the wife of Javed Mohammad, is the proprietor of the house and that the land on which it is built was gifted to her by her father, the petition claimed. “The electricity bill, house tax, and water tax is deposited on behalf of Parveen Fatima… Javed Mohammad is her husband of her but he has no property right over the house,” the petitioner says.

Javed Mohammad, Welfare Party of India leader and a known Muslim activist in the city is currently in judicial custody after he was arrested and accused of being a “key conspirator” of the June 10 protest in Allahabad against anti-Islam remarks by BJP’s Nupur Sharma on the prophet Muhammed.

The Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) demolished Javed’s home on 12 June, a day after serving a notice to him asking him to vacate the property by the next morning to go ahead with demolition proceedings.

The Uttar Pradesh government had filed a similar affidavit in the Supreme Court of India while it heard a petition filed by the Muslim body Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind. Two complaints were attached with the reply affidavit in the High Court by the same people – one dated May 4, 2022, and one on May 19, 2022.

The state BJP government stated that the proceedings were carried out as a result of complaints received from local residents Sarfaraz, Md Azam, and Noor Alam in both of its affidavits — before the High Court and Supreme Court.

The High Court received complaints that were made in Hindi, whereas the Supreme Court received complaints and responses in English. The complainants did not mention their address or contact details but described themselves as “respected people of the mohalla”.

Interestingly, The Indian Express visited the mohalla at J K Ashiana Colony in the Kareli area of Prayagraj and asked 30 residents within a radius of 400m from the demolished house about the complainants. Fifteen of them declined to comment, saying they feared government action. The other 15 responded: all of them said they did not know who the complainants were, and had never heard of them being local residents, the newspaper reported.

“That some complaints were made by the residents of Kareli to the Prayagraj Development Authority, Prayagraj in respect of unauthorised office use in a residential area as well as illegal construction and encroachment. A complaint dated 4.05.2022 was made by the residents of the area in which it was stated that the construction was done without a sanction map from the Development Authority, and the premises was being used by the ‘Welfare Party of India’ in contravention of land-use norms,” read the affidavit by the government accessed by Indian Express.

The affidavit also stated that on May 10, 2022, PDA issued a show-cause notice according to Section 27 (1) of the Uttar Pradesh Urban Planning and Development Act 1973, granting a personal hearing to show cause in connection to the “unauthorised construction.”

A copy of the notice was also attached with the affidavit.

“The notice was attempted to be served in person at the premises… but they (the family) refused to accept it,” it said, adding the notice was then pasted on the wall of the building as per the rules.

The government further stated that another complaint was received on May 19, 2022, from the locals stating that despite the earlier complaint, no action was taken.

The government did not respond to the High Court’s directive that, after a demolition order is issued, the affected party must be given a 30-day window to file an appeal against it, according to Javed’s attorney KK Roy, who requested a day’s time from the court to file a counter to the government’s reply.

Opposition leaders, Muslim leaders, rights activists, and global rights bodies strongly condemned “the arbitrary demolition of Afreen Fatima’s house, as well as the arbitrary detention of her mother and sister and the ongoing arbitrary detention and criminalisation of her father, Javed Mohammad.”

Afreen Fatima, national secretary of Fraternity Movement, is a woman human rights defender and a Muslim activist who has been vocal against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed (CAA) in 2019. She is the former president of the students’ union of Women’s College at the Aligarh Muslim University, and former councilor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ union. Javed is the national federal working committee member of Welfare Party of India.

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