Authorities in northern Uttar Pradesh state arrest more than 300 people and tear down several houses belonging to Muslims in connection with unrest over insulting remarks made by members of ruling BJP about Prophet Muhammad and his wife Ayesha.

Demolitions have sparked outrage, with rights activists and opposition leaders saying BJP was pursuing an unconstitutional method to silence protesters.
Demolitions have sparked outrage, with rights activists and opposition leaders saying BJP was pursuing an unconstitutional method to silence protesters. (AFP)

Authorities in India's Uttar Pradesh state have demolished homes of several Muslim families allegedly for role in massive protests last week triggered by derogatory remarks made by members of ruling Hindu nationalist party about Prophet Muhammad and his wife.

Local media reported on Sunday that one of the houses razed to ground belonged to a Muslim politician Javed Ahmed. His daughter, Afreen Fatima, is a renowned Muslim rights campaigner. 

Properties of two more people accused of throwing stones after Friday prayers were also demolished in the state.

Muslims have taken to the streets across India in recent weeks to protest against the anti-Islamic comments by two members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Clashes have broken out between Muslims and Hindus and in some cases between protesters and police in several areas. Police in Uttar Pradesh state arrested more than 300 people in connection with the unrest.

Many in India's minority Muslim community see the comments as the latest instance of pressure and humiliation under BJP rule on issues ranging from freedom of worship to the wearing of hijab head scarves.

The BJP has suspended its spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled another leader, Naveen Kumar Jindal, for the comments, which have also caused a diplomatic row with several Muslim countries.

Police have filed cases against the two and the government has said the comments do not reflect its views.

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Outrage over demolitions

Muslim groups have demanded their arrest, while some hardline Hindu groups label them as brave and nationalist politicians.

Over the weekend the firebrand chief minister of BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh state, Yogi Adityanath, ordered officials to demolish any illegal establishments and homes of people accused of involvement in riots there last week, the BJP's state spokesperson said..

Mrityunjay Kumar, Adityanath's media adviser, tweeted a photo of a bulldozer demolishing a building and said "Unruly elements remember, every Friday is followed by a Saturday."

The demolitions sparked outrage on social media, with rights activists and opposition leaders saying Adityanath's government was pursuing an unconstitutional method to silence protesters.

"That Afreen Fatima's family has been detained, including her mother and sister at undisclosed locations, and her home us being bulldozed by the State, is further proof that the 'fringe elements' have taken over the building and making 'law'," said India's renowned advocate Karuna Nundy. 

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Bangladesh accused of inciting violence 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has so far not commented on the anti-Islamic comments or the demolitions of Muslims' homes.

In the eastern state of West Bengal, authorities enforced an emergency law prohibiting public gatherings in the industrial district of Howrah until June 16.

BJP's West Bengal president on Sunday staged a sit-in protest and accused neighbouring Bangladesh, a mainly Muslim nation, of inciting violence in the state.

Last week countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Iran –– which are key trade partners of India –– lodged diplomatic protests to demand an apology from Modi's government for the comments.

India has called BJP's erstwhile members a "fringe element" and avoided issuing an apology. 

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Muslims under BJP rule

Since Modi came to power in 2014, Hindu mobs have lynched scores of people — mainly Muslims and Dalit Hindus — suspected of illegally transporting cows or consuming beef.

Hindu far-right groups have also targeted Muslims over "love jihad", the conspiracy theory that Muslims are luring Hindu women with the aim of conversion and eventually national domination.

Muslims were also accused of spreading Covid-19. In recent years, Hindu mobs have targeted Muslims praying on Fridays in northern India.

BJP recently banned wearing the hijab in classrooms in southern Karnataka state. Hardline Hindu groups later demanded such restrictions in more Indian states. Muslim mutton sellers and fruit vendors have also become the target of the far-right Hindu groups.

During a Hindu festival in April, Hindu mobs pelted stones on mosques in several areas while DJs played loud music outside the mosques as worshippers prayed.

Hindu monks known for their incendiary anti-Muslim speeches have been calling for Rohingya-type ethnic cleansing of Indian Muslims.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies