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Nuh Violence: Haryana Govt Destroys 1,208 Structures

A singular district encompassing 11 distinct townships and hamlets, all within the span of five days. A staggering tally of 1,208 structures, predominantly owned by those of the Muslim faith, sprawled over 72.1 acres. Such stands the record of demolition carried out by the governing body of Haryana in the district of Nuh, in the aftermath of communal turmoil which claimed six lives and left 88 individuals injured.

This numerical saga, independently validated by two well-versed sources with intimate knowledge of the situation, and further subjected to haphazard scrutiny by HT’s correspondents through on-site investigations, consistently found properties held by Muslims as victims. The magnitude of this count would arguably have reached even greater heights were it not for the intervention of Punjab & Haryana’s high court on the 7th of August. The judiciary probed whether this unbalanced sequence of destruction could be deemed “ethnic cleansing,” prompting the state’s authorities to temporarily suspend their actions.

Per official records, the properties laid to waste were distributed across the towns and villages of Nuh, Nalhar, Punhana, Tauru, Nangal Mubarakpur, Shahpur, Aagon, Adbar Chowk, Nalhar Road, Tiranga Chowk, and Nagina. This series of demolitions emerged as one of the most substantial endeavors of its kind in the vicinity.

Jawahar Yadav, entrusted with the duty of Special Officer to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar of Haryana, relayed that representatives from town and country planning department, Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran (HSVP), the police force, forest department, and local panchayats united in their quest to identify the structures primed for elimination.

“An assembly was convened on the 1st of August, and each official pored over records pertinent to their jurisdictions. Guided by the statements of those implicated in the violence, the operation was executed. The residences razed were those of individuals either arrested, identified, or establishments that operated unlawfully,” he articulated.

Yadav attested to the thorough legal consultation and scrutiny of all records preceding the commencement of this mission, thereby ensuring strict adherence to governing protocols. Notably, he contended that a notice had been dispatched on the 30th of June, despite the chronological discrepancy posed by the committee’s assembly on the 1st of August.

Nuh’s District Commissioner, Dhirendra Khadgata, in conversation with HT, substantiated the rationale behind the demolitions: encroachments upon governmental lands, unauthorized constructions upon forest lands, erections on HSVP territory, unpermitted habitation, unapproved changes in land-use for agricultural tracts, unendorsed architectural plans, or structures employed by rioters for hurling projectiles and incendiary devices during a Hindu religious parade on the 31st of July.

All aspects, excluding the final one, warrant the demolition—provided proper legal procedures are observed.

Surprisingly, the proprietors of the razed properties received no forewarning or prior notification from the administration before the initiation of the demolition endeavor.

Liyakat Ali, proprietor of a tiles showroom in Kherli Kankar village, recounted that a demolition notice was posted mere moments before his establishment’s obliteration. He affirmed ownership and continuous operation of the business for six years, without any communication from the authorities.

Prashant Panwar, erstwhile Deputy Commissioner of Nuh, stipulated that the building in question lacked an approved architectural plan and was raised in violation of legal provisions.

However, the demolition’s application appeared indiscriminate. In fact, the common thread binding the cases together, if one could be identified, was the religious affiliation of the property owners.

Take, for instance, the kiosk belonging to Hamid Mohammad, duly registered with the Nuh municipal corporation—obliterated. Renu Sogan, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Nuh, professed her ignorance regarding the demolition initiative and the rationale behind dismantling kiosks under municipal jurisdiction.

Narendra Bijarniya, Superintendent of Police in Nuh, assuming office on the 4th of August, defended the action as a response to “illegal constructions and individuals engaged in anti-social activities.”

“The operation commenced in the vicinity of Tauru, where shanties were erected upon HSVP territory. Despite repeated admonitions, the occupants refused to vacate. This was not a hastily made decision; the district town planning team had been planning this endeavor,” he emphasized.

The extent and nature of the warnings issued, as well as the timeline, remained shrouded in uncertainty.

On the 3rd of August, over 250 makeshift shanties in a Rohingya settlement in Tauru met a similar fate. Police presented two justifications for this demolition: some of the individuals implicated in the Nuh violence had sought refuge within this settlement, and the shanties themselves encroached upon HSVP lands.

Subsequently, four Rohingya men were apprehended on allegations of involvement in the violence, as per police records. The inhabitants, purportedly illegal immigrants from Bangladesh who relocated from Assam to Haryana, settled there around four years prior. The settlement comprised mostly rickshaw pullers, ragpickers, vegetable vendors, and daily laborers.

Munjila Khatun, hailing from Bongaigaon, Assam, recounted the demolition scene. She received a call from her son and hastened home, only to witness officials embarking on demolition without prior notice. “Our kitchen utensils were shattered, bedding discarded. We were ordered to evacuate,” she lamented.

Abdul Hussain, a vegetable vendor, beseeched officials for time, but they linked him and his peers to the communal violence. “We’re being penalized unjustly. They apprehended my son, who wasn’t even present at the site of violence. We’re impoverished, and no one listens to our pleas,” he bemoaned. His son is a mere 15 years old.

It remains plausible that the entirety of the settlement comprised Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, rather than from Assam. Similarly, not all residents might have been connected to the Nuh violence.

The 4th of August saw the continuation of the drive, with at least 50 homes across 10 locations razed in Nuh and Tauru, allegedly owned by those involved in the Nuh clash. Police asserted that these structures either belonged to the suspects or facilitated stone-throwing, weapons storage, and attacks on Hindu devotees returning from Shiva temple in Nalhar after prayer.

Former Deputy Commissioner Prashant Panwar elucidated that orders originated from Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar himself, directing action against illegal construction and individuals associated with violent activities.

Officials detailed the clearance of five acres of forest department land behind Nalhar Shiv Temple, alongside six acres of forest land in Punhana. A makeshift shed erected on two acres of land in Nangal Mubarikpur was similarly removed.

The most publicized demolition occurred in Nalhar, targeting houses and shops belonging to Akram Khan, accused of car destruction and arson, as well as Saddam Hussain, Wahid Khan, Mausam Hussain, and Aas Mohammad.

“We were absent from the location during the violence. We possess the requisite land documents, which unequivocally confirm it’s not forest land,” Mohammad contended.

Residences and shops at Khedla crossing, where cars were incinerated and projectiles hailed from neighboring homes, also met the same fate. Khalid Mohammad, a tea merchant at Khedla crossing, recounted shutting shop upon spotting a gathering mob. “I collaborated with the police, sharing videos of the suspects, yet my shop was still demolished,” he expressed.

On the third day of the drive, structures near Shaheed Hassan Khan Mewati Hospital in Nalhar faced demolition. “Illegal constructions spanning 2.6 acres in front of Nalhar Medical College were cleared—over 45 illegal constructions and around 13-15 makeshift structures obliterated. Notices had been dispatched to the proprietors. Some structures’ owners were also involved in the Braj Mandal Yatra violence,” elaborated Nuh’s Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Ashwani Kumar.

Demolitions unfolded in Nuh, Pinangwan, Ferozepur Jhirka, Nalhar crossing, Adbar crossing, and Tauru, the police confirmed. Over 50 teams were deployed on-site to support the administration during the drive. Led by Bijarniya, the operation pinpointed structures and houses associated with the suspects or employed for stone-throwing, weapon storage, and firing at Hindu devotees.

Kumar affirmed that the identification of the suspects’ properties relied on an initial investigation conducted by Nuh police, ensuring that innocent parties would not fall victim to this campaign.

The process of demolition persisted on Sunday.

Chaudhary Aftab Ahmed, Congress MLA of Nuh, decried the systematic targeting of Muslims and presented evidence of property ownership. “The Haryana government’s disproportionate focus on one community is egregiously unjust. More than 500 individuals have been rendered homeless, despite holding legitimate land documents and annually paying property taxes. Accusations of building on forest or HSVP land are unsubstantiated,” he contended.

Even within Nalhar, he emphasized, existing legal injunctions were ignored, which prohibited any action on the land subject to demolition.

These demolitions, he asserted, posed a threat to a specific faction of society. In a parallel development, 50 Haryana panchayats issued directives restricting the entry of Muslim traders.

The affected families demanded evidence from the police to substantiate their involvement in the Nuh violence.

Thus far, a total of 188 individuals have been apprehended, and 57 FIRs have been recorded in Nuh, in relation to the violence of July 31. Sweeps were conducted across 20 villages such as Mewli, Shikarpur, Jalalpur, and Singar.