India violence leaves trail of burned Muslim homes, shops
Islamic scholar complains of properties being `selectively razed`
NEW DELHI—A wave of religious communal violence across India coinciding with a Hindu festival has left at least one person dead, dozens injured, numerous Muslim-owned properties destroyed -- and residents bracing for the possibility of further clashes.
"Where will we go now? We have no means to survive or earn" a living, said Abid, 32, whose seventh-generation family home and popular bangle shop in Karauli, in northern India`s Rajasthan, were burned in early April as Hindus rallied in celebration of their New Year.
In the same area, 33-year-old Waheed Khan said his four-decade-old rented shop for embroidery and stitching was also attacked and burned by a mob. "They destroyed every single thing in my shop, leaving behind rubble," he said, adding that he now owed his customers, in addition to "losing every penny."
Khan said that nearly 10 shops, all belonging to Muslims, were torched.
The violence comes at a time of high religious tension in India. Many Muslims say the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which runs the country under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, marginalizes them or tacitly condones discrimination against them -- charges the party denies.
In parts of Delhi, recently, Muslim butchers complained of losing income after being forced to close their shops during another Hindu festival.
In Karauli, police have imposed a curfew and are seeking the perpetrators after the worst communal violence the city has seen since India`s independence in 1947.
Shailendra Singh, the police superintendent in Karauli, told Nikkei Asia that so far 30 people "who were part of the violence" had been arrested. Police have alleged that Hindus taking part in a motorcycle procession were pelted with stones when they rode into a mainly Muslim area. Meanwhile, Muslim residents say some Hindus "played provocative songs" and tried to attack Muslim religious sites.
"The situation is under control right now," Singh said.
Other states also saw outbreaks of communal violence during the festival, including Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal.
Witnesses claimed that Hindu processions were used to "harass Muslims," with some participants carrying sticks and swords, spouting hate speech and attacking property.
Serious riots were reported in the district of Khargone in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, which is governed by the BJP. Farooq Khan, a Muslim resident, said he came home from evening prayers to find smoke spewing from his house.
"I was numb and shocked," he said. "Just one hour ago, I was at home and it was safe. Now my family was pleading for help," he said.
Nawab Khan, 60, whose grocery store in Khargone was destroyed, said: "They started attacking our shops and houses. When I asked them `why are you doing this,` they didn`t listen."
At least 10 houses were set ablaze and dozens of people, including a high-ranking police officer, were injured in the violence in Khargone. Fearing arrests and more violence in the coming days, some families left their homes in search of somewhere safer.
As in Karauli, Muslims were accused of throwing stones at the New Year procession in Khargone -- and the authorities appear to have gone after them. Local Muslims accuse the police of harassment.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the BJP earlier this week said, "The rioters have been identified."
"Those who have pelted [people with] stones will be punished, but along with it, they will be made to pay for the losses to both public and private properties," he said.
The punishment, according to local reports, has included bulldozing houses and shops belonging to those who allegedly threw stones at the Hindu revelers. Around 45 structures have reportedly been demolished by the local authorities, who deemed then "illegal constructions." Khargone was also placed under a curfew.
"Instead of arresting the culprits, they are arresting Muslims who were victims in this," said Nawab Khan. "They also have started bulldozing our homes."
Maulana Mahmood Madani, president of Jamiat Ul Ulema Hind, a leading organization of Islamic scholars, alleged that Muslim-owned properties were being "selectively razed," and this week asked India`s home minister, Amit Shah, to intervene and stop the harassment of Muslims.
"It is very unfortunate to see that after the outbreak of violence, now the local administration is harassing the minority community," he said. "In a selective manner, properties belonging to Muslims are being razed. People are homeless, all of a sudden."
He asked, "Under which laws are the properties of a suspect of any crime allowed to be demolished?"
Photo: This tailoring shop in Karauli, Rajasthan, was looted and gutted by fire. Source: Meer Faisal.