Bulldozers in India are being rumbled into Muslim localities to tear down houses and impose collective punishment on alleged rioters — but none of this merits more than a yawn in the international community that watches the spectacle with a deafening silence.
The long arm of the heavy earthmovers, ruthlessly clawing its way into the intimate chambers of the homes of dissidents, is the latest symbol of the Hindutva India, while the long-celebrated democracy flounders under the concrete rubble.
But the Modi’s rule, which has virtually reneged on all international rights conventions, has thus far interestingly managed to elude all radars that otherwise register an eat-piercing bleep over “illiberal” moves taken by regimes across the world.
The screams of the minority community, muffled by roughshod crackdown, have so far not penetrated the indifference of global champions of human rights or prick their conscience: a galling truth that mocks the increased awareness of human rights in a globalised world.
India was turned upside down last week by waves of massive protests after derogatory remarks were made by senior members of the ruling BJP about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The uprising has since mushroomed into a new and volatile moment of crisis that has touched a deeper chord of discontent.
The response by the Indian authorities sent a chilling message to the protesters as the government swung out against them with a borrowed infamous tactic from Israeli occupying forces in Palestine.
Although the Indian government has played up the “illegal encroachment” as its rationale for the brute force, the fact that these arbitrary demolitions are being carried out only against the alleged rioters of only Muslim community shows that the purpose seems to be to impose collective punishment.
The punitive house demolitions are being carried out without proper court proceedings and grossly violate Article 17(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which has also been judicially integrated into the Indian constitution.
The provision clearly stipulates that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property Likewise, Article 11 of the said declaration states that everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
Laws targeting Muslims
With the ruling BJP proceeding full steam ahead with the roughshod crackdown with little concern on its part to dress up its actions with some semblance of legality, government critics have sounded alarms that the quick and cold “justice” to the alleged rioters is dismantling the Indian republic.
Amnesty’s Aakar Patel told The Express Tribune that the BJP applies the method for the collective punishment with the help of laws it designed for the purpose. He added that the ruling party draws the legality from the policies it introduced with the purpose of targeting Muslims.
The recent demolitions were in line with the laws BJP has introduced since 2014 and later dialled up the laws in 2019, he added.
Gurmehar Kaur, independent Indian journalist, while speaking to The Express Tribune, noted that the illegal bulldozing presage the unraveling of the Indian republic.
“The illegal bulldozing is not only causing immense anguish and misery, but also a veritable dismantling of the Indian republic,” the staunch critic of Modi-led regime said.
‘Decline in national character’
The most striking and ignominious symbol of the degradation of human rights flashed across the television channels when robust news anchors salivated over the theatrics of the demolitions and forced evictions.
On Friday, as the authorities demolished activist Javed Mohammed’s house in Prayagraj, news channels covering the live incident cheered the spectacle with a triumphalist tone.
During a live broadcast of the demolition, a reporter from ABP News said, “Ye karwaai nai ye sandesh hai dangaaiyoon ke liye. Ye UP hai…” (This is not a proceeding but a message to rioters. This is Uttar Pradesh).
On Sunday morning, 19-year-old Sumaiya Fatima sister of activist Afreen Fatima and her mother Parveen Fatima were asked by the police to stay at the relative’s house and not move around. Hours later, they saw on live TV that their home was being razed to the ground as people celebrated.
“Who would have thought that countless fellow Indians would turn into a mob?” Gurmehar expressed shock over the gleeful coverage of the viscious attacks.
“As an Indian, it is heart-breaking to behold,” Gurmehar said and condemned the hate-filled atmosphere.
“One that cheers for those who kill is an apologist for those who destroy lives.” One sees a decline in national character, she lamented.
Last week, experts were taken by surprise after India appeared to have caught off-guard as volley after volley of condemnations from Arab nations over the insulting remarks against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) thrust its diplomacy into the throes of a tortured process of introspection and an unusual tightrope it had not walked before.
The ruling party suspended two of its key politicians and issued clarifications to tamp down the damage as more Muslim nations joined the chorus.
Major trading and economic partners of India in the Gulf including Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Oman have all denounced the insulting remarks and called for action against those BJP members.
Irate over the derogatory remarks, these countries summoned the Indian envoys in a rare move with Qatar going a few steps ahead and demanding a formal apology.
However, the boiling anger now seems to have cooled to a simmer, losing the steam that had emboldened the beleaguered community to spill onto the streets and voice its protests over the rising Islamophobia.