Indian authorities demolish homes of Muslim protesters after riots triggered by remarks about prophet Muhammad

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Authorities in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh demolished the homes of several Muslim people over the weekend for being allegedly involved in riots that were triggered by derogatory remarks made against prophet Muhammad.

Muslims across the country have taken to the streets to protest the remarks made against the prophet by former spokesperson Nupur Sharma and media chief Naveen Jindal of prime minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The remarks also sparked a diplomatic row between India and Muslim-majority key trade partner countries in the Middle East and Asia.

Ms Sharma has been suspended from the party while Mr Jindal has been expelled due to the growing diplomatic backlash.

However, the protests turned violent in several states, with clashes erupting between Hindus and Muslims and protesters and the police in several areas. Over 300 people were arrested in Uttar Pradesh alone in connection with the unrest.

Following the protests, the state's right-wing chief minister Yogi Adityanath ordered officials to demolish any illegal establishments and homes of people accused of involvement in the riots.

Three Muslim-owned houses in Prayagraj, including the house of a rights activist, were bulldozed amid heavy police presence on Sunday.

Two of the razed houses belonged to people accused of throwing stones following the Friday prayers.

Javed Mohammed, a politician and father of activist Afreen Fatima, was reportedly arrested on Saturday and the family was asked to vacate the house by 11am on Sunday.

Authorities had claimed that Mr Mohammed was given a notice on 10 May to appear for a hearing on 24 May, to which he failed to comply. However, the claim was refuted by the family.

A bulldozer demolishes the house of a Muslim man on 12 June (Reuters)
A bulldozer demolishes the house of a Muslim man on 12 June (Reuters)

“We were not protesting on Friday. None of us were a part of protests that were happening in Allahabad... We were at home,” Ms Fatima told Al Jazeera.

“We have been paying our house tax for around 20 years and not once have we received any intimation by any development authorities that our house is illegal,” she added. The local police have alleged it found “illegal weapons” in his house during the demolition.

Critics and opposition parties in India have accused the BJP government of illegally demolishing Muslim homes in an effort to intimidate minorities.

The prime minister has so far not commented on the communal unrest.

A group of lawyers have written to the Allahabad High Court stating that the demolition was against the law. “No earlier notices of illegal construction [were] received by the accused or his wife,” they told the court.

Meanwhile, two Muslim teenagers died of gunshot wounds during clashes with police on Friday in Ranchi in Jharkhand state. Local reports said at least 10 were being treated for various injuries.

Bangladesh’s Islamist activists and supporters hold placards as they shout anti-India slogans (AFP via Getty)
Bangladesh’s Islamist activists and supporters hold placards as they shout anti-India slogans (AFP via Getty)

In West Bengal, authorities enforced an emergency law prohibiting public gatherings in the industrial district of Howrah until 16 June after protests demanding Ms Sharma’s arrest turned violent.

The state president of BJP staged a sit-in protest and accused neighbouring Bangladesh, a mainly Muslim nation, of inciting violence in the state.

Thousands of people also took to the streets in Bangladesh and Pakistan to protest the remarks against the prophet.

Thousands walked the streets near the main Baitul Mukarram Mosque in downtown Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, after Friday prayers and raised slogans against the Indian government and Mr Modi.

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