Within the northern Indian metropolis of Haldwani, about 4,000 households confronted homelessness in December after the Excessive Court docket of the state, Uttarakhand, ordered their eviction from land claimed by the Indian Railways.
A lot of the households are Muslim, and all the things — houses, faculties and mosques — was to be demolished. The story rightly made worldwide headlines, and finally, the nation’s Supreme Court docket put a maintain on the eviction for now, arguing that authorities wanted to provide you with a resettlement and rehabilitation plan first.
But the incident in Haldwani, 296km (184 miles) from nationwide capital New Delhi, captures a broader sample of injustice masquerading as regulation and order that’s enjoying out throughout India beneath the majoritarian Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP), which guidelines federally and in most states.
The bulldozer is central to this technique. Muslims are the goal. And in contrast to in Haldwani, affected individuals and communities solely not often get even a short lived reprieve.
Nowhere is that this extra evident than within the northeastern state of Assam, some 2,000km (1,242 miles) away from New Delhi, the place the BJP has dominated since 2016. 1000’s of Muslim households have been forcibly evicted since 2021 from land they’d been residing on for many years. Since 2016, police have shot at and killed protesters in at the least two cases.
The marketing campaign to render households homeless has picked up steam in current weeks. On December 19, about 250 households had been evicted within the Nagaon district of Assam. Every week later, 47 households’ houses had been destroyed in Barpeta district. Within the Lakhimpur district, tons of of households had been evicted in early January.
These numbers are simply the tip of the iceberg. There’s a technique to the insanity. The Miya Muslim neighborhood — whose ancestors, many generations in the past, settled in Assam from East Bengal, then an integral a part of British India (and now Bangladesh) — is dealing with the brunt of the evictions and demolitions.
The neighborhood is commonly focused, particularly by the Hindu proper, as “unlawful immigrants” and the phrase “Miya” is continuously used as a pejorative. Final yr, authorities arrested Miya Muslims who had arrange a museum devoted to the neighborhood’s cultural artefacts. Assam’s BJP Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma successfully accused museum organisers of cultural appropriation, arguing that the gadgets on show weren’t distinctive to the Miya Muslim neighborhood.
The thought behind the inhuman and violent evictions is to maintain Muslims landless and impoverished: Muslims have a better poverty price and decrease literacy price than the nationwide common. Analysis has proven that Indian Muslims have decrease upward mobility than individuals from even these Hindu castes and tribes which have historically been discriminated in opposition to.
In Assam, landlessness is a persistent drawback amongst marginalised teams, accentuated by annual floods and the perennial drawback of riverbank erosions. Many susceptible communities decide on government-owned land as they appear to earn a dwelling by working amongst native communities and on farmland.
As an alternative of addressing this drawback of landlessness, the Assam authorities is singling out Miya Muslims from amongst these occupying state-owned land, solely due to their religion, and is evicting them.
Elsewhere, this epidemic of evictions is getting used to both collectively punish Muslims or assault activists from the neighborhood who’ve dared to lift their voices in opposition to authorities injustices.
In New Delhi, houses of Muslims had been demolished — together with for some time after a Supreme Court docket order to halt the pressured eviction — final April, days after inter-religious stress within the neighbourhood. Within the state of Uttar Pradesh, authorities demolished the houses of Muslims who had protested in opposition to controversial remarks by a BJP spokesperson in opposition to Prophet Muhammad final July. The state of Madhya Pradesh — additionally dominated by the BJP — has used the identical tactic, too.
These are assaults on the rights of residents. The federal government equipment, with gigantic police forces in riot gear, excavators and in some instances even elephants, perform the evictions. Usually, the demolitions have been carried out with none warning or authorized notices.
At one in all Assam’s eviction websites, individuals who had their houses demolished arrange tarpaulin tents by the roadside. Authorities officers got here and eliminated even that momentary shelter. The place are they speculated to go now? I had no reply. Once I requested these rendered homeless, they didn’t, both.
That is barbaric. That is merciless. It isn’t simply houses that these individuals are dropping. Usually, their standing crops are destroyed, their timber felled. Even bogs are was rubble. In lots of instances, the victims are poor, and are pressured to sleep within the open in harsh climate — typically hungry, and with out entry to meals or clear water. Ladies don’t have the privateness of a bathroom.
Their plight and losses are largely invisible in mainstream information. The civil society representing minorities has no house within the media, and the civil society representing the bulk is silent. Maybe that’s why Abdul Khaleque, amongst these evicted in Lalung Gaon of Nagaon district mentioned to me: “Let the federal government shoot us; we shouldn’t have anyplace to go.”
In fact, Miya Muslims, and marginalised communities in India extra broadly, aren’t unfamiliar with the violence unleashed on them by the state and by non-state actors. In Assam, Miya Muslims have lengthy had their citizenship questioned — they’re continuously othered as encroachers who’re by some means, not Assamese.
Evictions are the newest weapon to focus on Muslims in Assam and throughout India. Whereas the Supreme Court docket intervened within the Haldwani case, it’s unclear whether or not others who’ve suffered will ever obtain justice.
And that, in the end, is the largest casualty of what the BJP and its governments are doing. Their bulldozers are demolishing the very idea of justice for Indian Muslims.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.