The 45-year-old fruit seller said: “In the blink of an eye, my house was destroyed. “While I stood there watching… (the police) just walked away.”
Splinters of wood, rusted metal and garbage litter the sandy sidewalk outside his home, where his four young children play.
His home is one of several properties in the Chhoti Mohan Talkies neighborhood of Khargone city, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, which he says has been demolished by authorities following violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims broke out on April 10 – the day of the Hindus. Ram Navami festival.
Experts say the demolition is the tip of a much deeper problem, and it is just the latest in a string of attacks on the country’s Muslim population, fueled in part by the ascendance to the throne. of the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of India.
They argue that Muslims in Madhya Pradesh run by the BJP have been disproportionately punished in the wake of the violence, raising concerns that members of the country’s largest religious minority – some 200 million in India’s 1.3 billion Muslim population – is being persecuted under the BJP.
They point to similar problems in the capital New Delhi, where witnesses told CNN authorities began demolishing shops and other structures in the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Jahangirpuri in Wednesday, days after violent conflict between Hindus and Muslims broke out following the celebration of Hanuman Jayanti. Birthday of the Hindu god Hanuman.
For Baig, there was an additional sense of injustice.
Baig said he and his neighbors were nowhere near the scene of the clash.
“I don’t know what’s going on in my country,” said Baig, who said he has lived in the compound for more than 30 years. “But all I can say is I’m paying the price for being a Muslim.”
‘My shops were demolished because I am Muslim’
But it was the scene of state officials razing property that received the most attention, with activists and residents decrying the practice as unfair and illegal.
Dr Tameezuddin Shaikh was at home on April 11 when he received a phone call from a friend informing him that authorities were bulldozing his son’s medical shop in the Muslim-majority Talab Chowk neighborhood of Khargone. teacher.
“I am amazed and often provide free services to poor and disadvantaged families,” said Shaikh. “There’s been a curfew in the city and I haven’t received any warning notices of any illegal behavior. I live far from my medical shop and with the curfew in place, there’s no way we can go and stop the demolition.”
According to Shaikh, about a dozen shops in Talab Chowk were demolished by the Khargone government.
Shaikh said neither he nor his son were involved in the violence. And he’s been serving the local community from that store for more than five decades without a problem, he added.
“I am a respected name in Khargone, having served people all my life,” he said. “But all the drugs and everything in my clinic worth more than 10 lakh rupees ($13,000) has gone to ruin.”
The Muslim group Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind filed a petition with the Supreme Court of India, calling for intervention in the demolitions, calling them a “violation” of India’s constitution.
According to attorney and activist Kawalpreet Kaur, county officials “cannot take the law on their own and cannot be the adjudicator.”
“They can’t decide who is the criminal,” she said.
Rahul Verma, a fellow from the Center for Policy Studies, said the demolition in Madhya Pradesh was “unprecedented”.
“The city office is not in the business of punishing people who may engage in stoning or violence,” he said.
Ayub Khan, a resident of the Aurangpura Square neighborhood, about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) from Talab Chowk, lost seven stores when authorities demolished them a day after the violence.
Khan says he lost more than $26,000 in the demolition and now faces the daunting task of rebuilding without enough funds. He plans to file a lawsuit against state officials with the country’s Supreme Court.
“The demolished shops have been there for more than 70 years and we have never received a single (government) notice,” he said. “Indeed, my shops were demolished because I am a Muslim who did not submit to the BJP leaders. The way the district government targeted Muslims after the violence in Khargone, obviously they hate a particular community.”
CNN has contacted the secretary of the Madhya Pradesh Home Minister, the Minister of Home Affairs, the District Collector of Khargone and the police, but received no response.
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Tensions between Hindus and Muslims have been at the heart of it for decades – even before India gained its independence from the British. But when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP came to power in 2014, promising economic reform and development, experts feared his rise could signal an ideological shift away from the politically charged regime. secular norms of the nation to move away from those of a Hindu nationalist state.
The BJP has its roots in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing Hindu group that considers Modi among its members and adheres to the Hindutva ideology that seeks to make India a land of the Hindus.
According to Debasish Roy Chowdhury, co-author of the book “To Kill A Democracy: India’s Passage to Desponism,” “the submission and domination of Muslims is demonstrable through their constant humiliation and loss of rights.” is the “focus” of the BJP’s Hindutva project.
“It charges the party’s Hindu far-right voter base, as well as helps attract more supporters by continuously polarizing voters based on religious identity through a relentless campaign,” he said. against hate,” he said.
Over the past eight years, several BJP-run countries have imposed new laws that critics say are rooted in Hindutva ideology. At the same time, reports of violence and hate speech against Muslims have surfaced across the country.
According to Muslim author and journalist Rana Ayyub, Muslims are “made to feel like victims in their own country.”
“From what I see in India now, I feel for my Muslims,” she said. “I feel sorry for my brother every time he goes to Namaz (prayer) wearing a skull cap for the month (Ramadan).”
And the destruction of Muslim-owned property during the month of Ramadan is, according to Ayyub, “devil and dismay.”
“It’s like (state agencies) are doing it on purpose,” she said. “They’re trying to tell us that (during) a month of sacrosanctism for Muslims, ‘we will humiliate your beliefs and your system’.”
Baig continued to live in a small room in his house – the only room that was not demolished – with his wife, children and ailing father.
They have no running water or electricity. With food running out, and his life destroyed, Baig doesn’t know how he can feed his family, he said.
“With temperatures hitting 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit), we are struggling to calm our crying babies,” said his wife Parveen.
But Baig believes that it was the organizations that protected him and his family that betrayed him by destroying their home.
“I want to ask the government, how can a man who struggles to make a living, but feeds his family by working hard every day, can engage in violent activities?” Baig asked.