Not to be outdone by its neighbour Uttar Pradesh in violating due process and fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian constitution, the Madhya Pradesh government has been demolishing the homes of people suspected of breaking the law. Muslims in both states have borne the brunt of these illegal and retributive acts made famous by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, earning him the title “bulldozer baba.”
I have been covering the demolitions under his counterpart in MP, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
A few things stand out in my mind after reporting on one such demolition last month in Ujjain, a holy city of Hindus, where three Muslim boys were accused of spitting on a Hindu religious procession. Even though there is little evidence of any spitting, they were arrested, and the home of two of the boys was demolished.
One of those things I remember was a reporter in Ujjain telling me that this was such a small matter that even a government bent on targeting Muslims, with little regard for the law or human rights, wouldn’t demolish a whole house and cause such suffering.
“Nahin ghar tondenge. Chota mamla hai,” the reporter said. (They won’t demolish the house. It's only a small matter).
He was wrong. They did it, and it was done to the celebratory score of “Govinda Govinda”, a devotional song in praise of the Hindu god Krishna.
The authorities claimed it was a “dangerous” building.
The story I reported showed how the allegation of spitting was most likely not true, and even if it was, nothing in the law allowed for demolishing someone’s house with or without prior intimation.
That it turned out to be a celebration is perhaps more revealing than anything anyone can write.
I remember thinking about why the local media was reporting the government’s version of the events without questioning the people in power or raising the point that it was illegal to demolish homes without cause or procedure.
I remember bureaucrats and police officers refusing to respond to my questions.
I remember my initial reluctance to tweet the demolition videos, fearing it may trigger worse action against the Muslim accused.
A big challenge was convincing the family of the Muslim boys to talk to a reporter.
After the government arrested the boys, demolished their home, and the media hounded them, the Muslim family fell silent, afraid of speaking about their ordeal.
The targeting of Muslims has become so common in MP that people rarely fight back, choosing instead to remain silent in the hope of getting the worst over quickly. I was surprised when the community leaders stood with the family and opposed the demolition.
You can read Kashif Kakvi’s full story here.