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EDITORIAL: The Indian Supreme Court’s refusal to stop the government from bulldozing houses of Muslims who have been protesting against two BJP spokespersons’ blasphemous remarks betrays a deep sympathy for the ruling party’s Hindutva agenda.

Hearing a petition brought by a Muslim group in Utter Pradesh (UP) state, ruled by a BJP monk-politician, after police demolished as many as 45 houses belonging to Muslims as punishment for participating in protests, seeking legal action against officials responsible, the court said “demolitions have to be in accordance with law, they cannot be retaliatory.

” Yet it rejected the petitioners’ request to grant even an interim stay, declaring “we can’t stay demolitions. We can say go in accordance with law.” In the same breath it asked the UP government to file a response to the ‘allegations’ by June 21, when it will hear the case again. That merits the question what if at the next hearing the petitioners prove that the government had acted out of mala fide intentions, and by then many more houses go under bulldozers. What remedy would the court offer them?

The government claims it has been razing houses because they were illegally constructed; it is no coincident that their owners invariably happen to be Muslims. Critics of the action also point out that millions of homes across India were built without planning permission, why only demolish protesters’ homes? As a matter of fact, this is not the first time Muslim homes have been singled out for knocking down. A couple of months earlier, a number of Muslim homes and shops were torn down in two BJP ruled states: Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Many decent people in that country, worried about the blatant injustice being meted out to fellow citizens and fast eroding pluralist polity of their country, are striving to save the situation.

In the wake of the latest crackdown on Muslims protesting ruling party officials’ insulting remarks about the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) several former judges and senior lawyers wrote a joint letter to the Chief Justice of India urging him to take note of the “brutal clampdown” and “violations of the rights of citizens.” Amnesty International has also issued a statement, reminding the rulers that “cracking down on protesters with excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions, and punitive house demolitions … is in complete violation of India’s commitments under international human rights law.” But even the top court has demonstrated where Muslims are concerned it cares little for either the country’s founding ideals or international law. Meanwhile, the self-styled defenders of human rights Western countries keep looking the other way.

The Muslim states which can help remain indifferent, too, to the plight of fellow Muslims. When at least 16 of them, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait reacted angrily to the ruling party officials’ blasphemous remarks, the Narendra Modi government had moved quickly to placate them — though with whitewash measures only — because of the huge economic interests it has in the region. They also need to use their clout to make it clear to India’s hardline Hindu nationalist rulers that they cannot violate the rights of Muslim citizens with impunity and still enjoy profitable economic relations with them.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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