On 20 April 2022, bulldozers demolished a string of shops on the roadside in the Jahangirpuri residential area, about 25km (14 miles) from the Indian Parliament. Hundreds of Muslims, mostly fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, perched on the rooftops of mosque and houses and watched the demolition in horror. A couple of hours after the drive began under the protection of police and security forces, India’s Supreme Court stayed the demolition. But for nearly an hour after the top court order, officials continued to demolish structures, including the outer entrance and stairs leading into a prominent mosque in the locality.
On April 16, 2022, Shobha Yatra, a Hindu possession had been organised to mark Hanuman Jayanti in Jahangirpuri resulting in an anti-Muslim flare-up. The Hindu youth belonging to the Hindutva groups entered the Muslim locality and threatened to attack the mosque. Genocidal slogans were raised during the rally. Scores of people were injured during the subsequent violence that broke out in the area.
Following the violence, Delhi Police arbitrarily arrested Muslim men, calling them “rioters.” It was after a letter from the Delhi BJP chief demanding to “bulldoze illegal encroachments of rioters”, that the authorities undertook an “anti-encroachment” eviction drive in Jahangirpuri demolishing properties belonging to Muslims.
Similar demolition drives were seen in Muslim neighborhoods across northern and central India. Muslims argue this is the latest attempt to harass and marginalise them. They point to a pattern of rising Islamophobia under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Muslims said the real reason behind the demolition had nothing to do with the alleged illegality of the building and that they were being punished for being vocal critics of the government.
Maktoob spoke to the residents of Jahangirpuri, the Muslim activists, and lawyers.