More than 300 Muslim homes and shops have been demolished by government authorities in India’s state of Haryana state in just four days, almost a week after a deadly attack on a mosque by a Hindu mob in a Muslim-majority district of the northern region.
Indian authorities launched the condemned demolishing campaign against Muslim homes and structures in Nuh, Haryana’s only Muslim-majority district, on Thursday, following the Hindu attack on the mosque that killed five Muslim worshippers earlier last week and another attack that killed four Muslims on a passenger train.
The violence first erupted on July 31 and quickly spilled over into adjoining areas, including the business hub Gurugram, which neighbors New Delhi, with the authorities accusing residents of “illegal” homes and shops of involvement in an attack on a Hindu procession in the district.
“I was heartbroken. My family and children depended on the rent we received from the shops. We had rented shops to both Hindus and Muslims,” said Abdul Rasheed, adding that police had locked him in a bus as a bulldozer demolished his shops.
He said authorities “gave no notice or showed any order, and bulldozed everything.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pursuit of a “Hindu first” agenda since coming to power in 2014 has stoked communal tensions in India. In recent years authorities in some states ruled by Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have demolished what they allege as “illegal” houses of people accused of crimes and of participating in religious clashes, many of them are Muslims.
“This is vengeance. They are destroying hotels, shops and homes. There is no appeal and hearing,” fifty-year-old Abdul Rasheed said. “We have been handed a begging bowl.”
He is among residents and owners of more than 300 Muslim homes and businesses bulldozed by the state’s right-wing BJP government during the past four days in yet another instance of collective and selective punishment of Muslims, who form nearly 77 percent of Nuh’s 280,000 residents.
In the wake of the cashes, more than 150 Muslims were arrested for alleged violence, local police told Al Jazeera on Monday.
“There may be one or two people from the ‘other side’ but almost all of those arrested from Nuh are Muslim,” said Tahir Husain, a lawyer defending most of the arrested, calling the arrests “unlawful and reckless.”
The government’s crushing crackdown has forces hundreds of men fleeing their homes in fear.
“The streets have been abandoned and the atmosphere is worse than the COVID-19 lockdown. At least there was no terror in the hearts of people at that time,” added Husain.