Indian Americans condemn police killing of Muslim protesters in Haldwani, demand end to illegal and punitive demolitions - IAMC

Indian Americans condemn police killing of Muslim protesters in Haldwani, demand end to illegal and punitive demolitions

Washington, D.C. (Feb 9, 2024) – The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) today strongly condemned the police killing of at least 6 Muslims in Haldwani, Uttarakhand, where police were given shoot-on-sight orders by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami against Muslims protesting the illegal demolition of a mosque and madrasa as part of an anti-encroachment drive. According to news reports, the demolition was followed by stone pelting and increased tensions in the area.

IAMC also expresses serious concerns over the anti-Muslim rhetoric pushed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its response to the incident. Several BJP parliamentarians have called the protests a “conspiracy,” claimed that the mosque and madrasa were “illegally” constructed, and even encouraged violence against the protestors. This includes a clear call to violence by BJP MP Harnath Yadav, who said, “There should be an order to shoot rioters at sight… There is no need to be lenient with them.”

“We cannot ignore the key facts that created this situation: the unjust demolition of a mosque and seminary, and the years of BJP leaders and Hindu supremacists normalizing such demolitions as collective punishment,” said Mohammed Jawad, IAMC President. “We call on the international community to take note of this dangerous structural violence against India’s most vulnerable minority group.”

Locals report that the demolition of the Mariyam mosque and the Abdul Razzaq Zakariya madrasa had been given a demolition notice on January 30, after which the caretakers of the buildings had moved the Uttarakhand High Court seeking relief from the demolition. Instead of waiting for the case’s hearing, civic authorities went ahead with the demolition, sparking outrage.     

The BJP’s claims that the riot was a pre-planned “conspiracy” is not only aimed at stirring further anti-Muslim hatred and violence, but also attempts to erase the state’s direct role in creating such violence and unrest by demolishing minority-owned structures in violation of international human rights law. In its coverage of the Haldwani incident, the New York Times notes that “Muslim sites have become a broader target of the Hindu right wing after the opening of a major temple last month,” and that the “violence unfolded against the backdrop of Hinduism’s rise as a national identity in India.”

The weaponization of bulldozers and demolition drives has also been well-documented by international news outlets and human rights groups. In two reports published just days ago, on February 7, Amnesty International called on Indian authorities to “immediately stop unjust targeted demolition of Muslim properties,” labeling the practice “deeply unjust, unlawful and discriminatory,” a “form of extra-judicial punishment,” and in violation of “due process safeguards outlined in domestic law or international human rights law.”

Just weeks ago, the 600-year-old Masjid Akhonji in New Delhi was bulldozed without warning. Similar incidents have been reported throughout the country for years, where civic authorities have bulldozed mosques, shrines, and madrasas under flimsy claims of removing illegal encroachments. This includes the partial demolition of a Delhi mosque and seminary in April 2023; the common practice by Delhi authorities of bulldozing local Muslim shrines and graves of saints with no warning; the 2021 demolition the 60-year-old Masjid Gareeb Nawaz Al Maroof and the 2023 bulldozing of the 16th century-era Shahi Masjid in Uttar Pradesh state as part of road widening projects. 

“The BJP is trying to paint this horrific incident as a senseless Muslim riot. That portrayal is a fantasy that ignores the ever-present reality of hatred, discrimination, and collective punishment of Muslims in India,” said Rasheed Ahmed, IAMC Executive Director.

“Indian authorities must immediately halt all ‘anti-encroachment’ drives in accordance with domestic and international human rights law,” Ahmed added. “As India’s ally, the United States should also take a strong stance against India’s collective punishment of Muslims by designating India as a Country of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The US should also implement policy recommendations put forth by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to hold perpetrators of structural violence accountable.”