Khargone violence: Muslims fined by Claims Tribunal accuse bias

Hafiz Mohammad Shaheed who owns a truck was brutally beaten by Hindutva rioters on 10 April at Talab Chowk area in Khargone. Hafis said to Maktoob that his vehicles were vandalised by the mob. Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

“We were called every 10–15 days and whenever we went to the tribunal for the hearing, it looked as if the judge was the lawyer, fighting the case on behalf of the petitioner,” says Haider, one of the 50 people fined for property damages by Claims Tribunal during anti-Muslim violence in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone on Ram Navami — 10 Apri 2022.

Haider and his brother Amir (name changed for safety) received a notice with 13–14 others living in one of the riot-affected areas in Khargone to pay 1.40 lakhs and 4.60 lakhs for the so-called damage to one Anil Jadhav’s house and Seetla Mata mandir, respectively.

The order was sent by a Claims Tribunal under the New and controversial Madhya Pradesh Prevention and Recovery of Damages to Public Property Act. The law, which came into effect in January, allows the government to seek compensation from offenders who damage public and private properties during agitations.

On 14 October, the tribunal gave six judgments ordering a compensation collection of Rs 7.37 lakhs from 50 accused.

“Anil Jadhav, who accused us and his lawyer rarely showed up,” Haider told Maktoob. He worked at Tata Motors, but during the Ram-Navami anti-Muslim violence, he lost his job.

“We are a joint family. I lost my job not because the company fired me. When the violence happened, there was tension in Khargone. People did not leave their houses, fearing lathicharge or illegal arrest”.

On 10th April 2022, Khargone witnessed anti-muslim violence by Hindutva groups during Ram Navami processions which led to the large-scale destruction of government and private property, many injured and one death.

Following the violence, on 11 April, authorities arbitrarily demolished the homes and shops of Muslims in Khargone. The selective demolitions were widely condemned by Muslim groups and rights bodies across India.

“The police were arresting Muslims without reason, which is why I could not go to work for a long time, and hence lost my job. The people who were arrested in the first two months right after the violence without an FIR were shown as ‘others’ in the same FIR, that is, 50 FIR accused and others,” Haider claims.

The lawyer handling the case, Altaf Qureshi, told Maktoob that the evidence provided by the petitioner includes pictures, but no damage is visible to the petitioner’s property or the Seetla Mata mandir in those pictures. 

“I informed the honourable judge/tribunal member that no damage is visible in the pictures to any of the mentioned properties. Nothing happened to the house or the mandir. They copied-pasted the names of the accused in the Anil Jadhav property damage case to that of the Seetla Mata Mandir damage case. The case was constructed to frame and trouble these innocent people,” said Qureshi.

According to Evidence Act 65B, any record that has to be submitted should have a certificate that mentions who made or created the electronic records, the pendrive or video, and from where they made it, etc. such information is mentioned in the certificate.

But in this case, the petitioner did not give any electronic record, pendrive or certificate that the record should be accepted.

The petitioner said in court that he does not have a record, but the police do, and it will be verified. To which Altaf replied that in a civil procedure court, the police have no role. The applicant who claims in the tribunal has the sole responsibility to provide the evidence, verify it, and provide the defence counsel with a copy. But according to Altaf, hesitant to comment, said the atmosphere and workings of the courtroom were overbearing.

“We were given orders to show our written arguments in two days, so on the morning of October 14th, and somehow submitted those arguments. Afterwards, my partner in the case, Amjad Mansoori, kept visiting the court every two hours and was there till evening. He was there till 5:30 pm and was told by the clerks that no order had passed and that the decision would come after Diwali.

We were satisfied that no decision had come till then, but the next day, on October 15th, the judgement was printed in Dainik Bhaskar. It was a big shock to us. If the court did not process any decision in the courtroom, then how come Dainik Bhaskar gets a copy of the same?” Altaf added.