Mohammad Saud’s shop was demolished by authorities in Nuh district“They destroyed everything within seconds,” said a tearful Mohammad Saud, standing before a towering mound of debris.

By Zoya Mateen in Delhi and Dilnawaz Pasha in Haryana

He and his younger brother Nawab Sheikh were looking at the broken remains of shops they ran in a neighbourhood in Nuh district in the northern Indian state of Haryana. As he spoke to the BBC on Saturday, a yellow bulldozer rumbled noisily behind him.

“We owned 15 shops which were built on our family’s land. We had all the documents but they [the police] insisted the buildings were illegal,” Mr Saud said.

The brothers’ buildings were among hundreds of shops and houses demolished by district authorities in the aftermath of communal violence which broke out last week in Nuh, a Muslim-majority district that is among the poorest in India’s national capital region (which includes Delhi and its suburbs).

Police have said the clashes between Hindus and Muslims began after a march led by a hardline Hindu organisation was pelted with stones when it passed through Nuh. As news spread, violence also broke out in Gurugram, just outside Delhi. Six people were killed in Nuh and Gurugram as rioters set fire to shops, vehicles and a mosque.


Days later, in what has become a pattern in many states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), bulldozers descended on shell-shocked residents of Nuh and tore down hundreds of structures, alleging they were built illegally. The action only stopped after four days, on Monday, when the state’s high court on its own accord issued a notice to the government.

“Apparently, without any demolition orders and notices, the law and order problem is being used as a ruse to bring down buildings without following the procedure established by law,” the court said. It also asked if the state was conducting “an exercise of ethnic cleansing” by targeting buildings mostly owned by Muslims.

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