Local Administration workers toe a burnt vehicle in the aftermath of riots, at Sohna Chowk, Haryana state, India, 01 August 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/VINAY GUPTA

Indian government demolishes Muslims’ houses amid concerns over possible ethnic cleansing

New Delhi, Aug 8 (EFE).- An Indian court has questioned if the demolition of hundreds of houses in a northern state, carried out by the administration after sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims, is aimed at “ethnic cleansing,” as all the demolished buildings belong to the Muslim community.

Policemen patrol the area in the aftermath of riots, in Sohna, Haryana state, India, 01 August 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/VINAY GUPTA

“The issue also arises whether the buildings belonging to a particular community are being brought down under the guise of law and order problem, and an exercise of ethnic cleansing is being conducted by the State,” the Punjab and Haryana High Court said in an order on Monday, widely covered by the Indian media on Tuesday.

The court made the observation while ordering an immediate halt to the demolitions being carried out by the state of Haryana, ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, in the Nuh district, the only Muslim majority district of the state.

A violent clash had broken out in Nuh between the two communities last week after a Hindu group organized a religious procession through a Muslim majority area.

The riots, which spread to the neighboring Gurugram district, left six dead while dozens of people were wounded, resulting in the authorities ordering a curfew and suspending internet in the affected areas.

Parallelly, it began a campaign of demolishing structures that were allegedly constructed illegally and belonged to those responsible for the violence, as per the administration’s version.

In four days, the authorities demolished 162 permanent structures and 591 temporary ones, Nuh’s police superintendent Narendra Bijarniya told reporters.

However, the court has stayed the process saying it did not follow legal norms and suggested that “the law and order problem is being used as a ruse to bring down buildings without following the procedure established by law.”

The demolition of Muslim-owned properties is a punishment frequently adopted by Indian administration in recent times in response to violence between Hindus and Muslims.

India has in the past witnessed bloody clashes between the two communities, in which thousands were killed or wounded.

Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ascent to power has coincided with the radicalization of the majority Hindus, and numerous human rights groups have flagged the disproportionate rise of attacks against the Muslim minority. EFE