India: Court halts demolition of Muslim properties in Delhi
April 20, 2022
Government critics accuse the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP of using so-called demolition drives to intimidate the country's Muslim minority. But authorities say they are only targeting illegal structures.
India's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered authorities in New Delhi to stop tearing down Muslim-owned shops and other structures near the site of recent communal clashes.
The order came after paramilitary forces and bulldozers moved into Jahangirpuri — a low-income, predominantly Muslim neighborhood in the capital's northwest — and razed several shops as well as the walls around a mosque.
Rahul Gandhi, a leader of the opposition Congress party, called the drive "a demolition of India's constitutional values'' and "state-sponsored targeting" of low-income groups and minorities.
BJP leaders and hard-line Hindu groups affiliated with the party, however, say they are not targeting any particular religious group but are only enforcing the law.
Raja Iqbal Singh, mayor of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, which is ruled by the BJP, said there was no connection between the demolitions and the weekend clashes. Authorities were just tearing down "illegal buildings that have encroached onto the roads,'' he said.
India's BJP rejects allegations of Muslim suppression
The Supreme Court's decision followed a petition accusing municipal authorities of not giving local residents or shopkeepers advance warning.
The stay on the demolition will remain in force until a hearing scheduled for Thursday.
India has seen a spike in small-scale confrontations between Hindus and Muslims at religious processions in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, a number of homes and shops were torn down in the central state of Madhya Pradesh and western Gujarat state in the aftermath of communal violence there. Both states are ruled by the BJP.