Bulldozer razes home of Prayagraj unrest 'mastermind'
The bulldozer as a political weapon was back on Sunday, targeting the two-storey house of an alleged riot “mastermind” in Allahabad City that the authorities said had been built illegally.
The Prayagraj Development Authority demolished about “60 per cent” of the house of Javed Mohammad, a pump manufacturer who had been arrested on Friday for allegedly organising a protest demanding the arrest of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma. The protest had turned violent.
Additional director-general of police (law and order) Prashant Kumar told reporters in Lucknow that “a portion of Javed’s house was demolished as it was built illegally”. But in the same breath he described the accused as “the mastermind of Friday’s violence”, bringing the timing of the demolition in focus.
Another senior officer appeared to be attempting demonisation, claiming that Javed’s elder daughter Afreen Fatima had studied at JNU and participated in the Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protests — circumstances that carry not just a stigma but sinister implications for the Right-wing ecosystem. The officer alleged that Afreen had advised her father on how to organise protests.
Following communal violence during Ram Navami processions in April, many BJP-ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat had demolished the homes of several Muslims accused of rioting, alleging encroachment or illegal construction. The drive had virtually turned the bulldozer into a BJP mascot.
The country had on Friday witnessed widespread demonstrations against Sharma’s derogatory comments on Prophet Mohammed, with the protests turning violent in some places. In the Atala area of Allahabad City, a mob had pelted the police with stones.
“The mastermind of Friday’s violence in Prayagraj had built (his house) without approval from the development authority,” ADG Kumar said.
“A notice was pasted on the wall of the house 24 hours ago asking the occupants to vacate it. Previously, too, the PDA had served him with a notice but he had ignored it.”
According to Allahabad senior superintendent of police Ajay Kumar, who said that Afreen was a former JNU student and Shaheen Bagh protester, the police were checking Javed’s mobile phone for messages to and from the daughter.
“We are analysing the conversations between father and daughter before the Atala protests,” he said, claiming Afreen was in Delhi and that a police team might go there to question her.
However, in a video released on Saturday, a woman introducing herself as Afreen appears to predict the demolition and allege police harassment at her home, suggesting she was in Allahabad.
“The police took away my father to an unknown place on Friday. They also took away my mother, who is diabetic, and 19-year-old younger sister somewhere at 12.30am on Saturday,” she appears to be saying in the video.
“I don’t know why the police have detained them and where.... Around 2.30am (Saturday) the police again gathered at our house and tried to detain me and my sister-in-law.
“They intimidated and harassed us in every possible way when we resisted…. We fear that our house will be demolished…. My father has been falsely implicated in riot cases.”
Officers did not comment on the video.
Javed is among 91 people arrested over Friday’s violence in Allahabad. His was the only house demolished. Eyewitnesses said about 60 per cent of the building, in the J.K. Ashiyana Colony of Atala, was pulled down by three bulldozers in five hours.
Long before BJP governments began deploying the bulldozers, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath had found another way of harassing and intimidating people he opposed politically.
Adityanath had in early 2020 got hoardings and posters put up with pictures and addresses of alleged anti-CAA protesters and begun confiscating their properties as compensation for the damage caused to public property during the demonstrations.
However, Allahabad High Court directed the state government to remove the posters and in February this year, the Supreme Court asked the administration to refund the “crores” recovered from the alleged protesters.