More than 200 Muslim houses on March 10 were burnt to the ground in the Meerut district of Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. On 6th March, the local authorities carried out an alleged encroachment drive in the Bhusa Mandi slum of Meerut, which is densely populated with impoverished Muslims. The residents of Bhusa Mandi claim that the police officials of the Uttar Pradesh state attacked both men and women and even fired and assaulted the residents after burning down their houses.
Shaikh Zakeer Hussain from The Cognate reports that this frightful incident took place after officials from the Meerut Cantonment board arrived at the Bhusa Mandi slum with police officials, to force the residents to vacate their houses over claims of illegal encroachment of the land.
The authorities have claimed that the residents burnt their own houses, while the Muslim residents of Bhusa Mandi slum denied these allegations, and claimed that it was the authorities who attacked them and later burned down their houses.
ChalChitra Abhiyaan, an independent media source, shared a video directly from the slums of Bhusa Mandi, which shows the anguish of the victims. The video reveals shocking details of the incident as victims come forward to share stories of how they were attacked, beaten, stolen from and blamed for illegally encroaching a land where they have been living for the past three years.
These victims are now forced to live out in the open, with ruins of their once lively homes scattered around them on the ground. They have lost their belongings, money essentials, jewels, fixtures and even the dowries they had painstakingly accumulated to marry off their daughters.
Reports reveal that the Meerut administration had ordered a magisterial inquiry, but the police registered an FIR against Muslim men, while dozens of Muslims have been arrested.
Anti-Muslim hate: BJP’s nationalistic strategy
Recently, an advertisement by Surf Excel campaign that calls for Hindu-Muslim unity and cordial relations has come under extreme fire on Indian social media, and RSS activists have called for a boycott of this brand. Hindu extremists have accused this ad of spreading Hindu phobia, and even promoting “love jihad”. Earlier, Hindustan Unilever and Brooke Bond Red Label, two of India’s greatest advertisers, also came under fire for disrespecting Hindu sentiments.
While speaking to East Asia Forum, Robin Bannerman Jeffrey, a Canadian-born expert on modern Indian history and politics, revealed Modi’s strategy of “unsheathing his nationalist sword” given the atmosphere created by the upcoming election and ongoing strife with Pakistan.
Jeffery warns, “The BJP is likely to use these (anti-Muslim) emotions for their election campaign. He went onto highlight that Modi is a “life-long activist” of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is the parent Hindu nationalist organization, accused of stirring anti-Muslim riots and violence for decades. In 2002, Modi turned a “blind eye” to the Muslim massacre staged in Gujarat, and his leading rhetoric upon assuming the Prime Ministerial office has also focused on promoting an antagonistic environment of “Hindu majoritarianism”.
Jeffry cautions that social media tools, particularly WhatsApp, are being used to spread fallacious news and “hateful messages”, which trigger “sporadic attacks on Muslims” after branding them as “cow killers and beef eaters”.
Last Wednesday, the United Nations Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet, issued an official warning to India to put an end to its “divisive policies” and narrow political objectives that seek to marginalize Muslim and Dalit communities amongst other vulnerable ethnic groups. Bachelet warned India that such policies that promote inequality and unfairness in society will only serve to undermine India’s economic growth.
Al Jazeera cited Bachelet’s statement during her annual report presented at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, “We are receiving reports that indicate increasing harassment and targeting of minorities – in particular, Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalized groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis.”
A day earlier, the Indian division of Amnesty International had also publicized its findings of “disturbing” hate crimes, and violence including rape, murder, and assault, inflicted on “marginalized communities” in 2018.