Bulldozer Action: No Law, Only Rule in India

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A worse form of retributive justice has been brought into effect in India. It can be called the bulldozer justice. The house of a person was destroyed because he had allegedly taken part in a protest march against the blasphemous statement of two BJP leaders, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal. As it happened, the house was built by his wife, not him, and as a result of the police action, the other members of the family have also been deprived of a dwelling. The man was not tried under any law of the land. He was not even asked to explain his conduct before a bulldozer was set in motion and his house was demolished. No, it was not an isolated case, as the UP Police have demolished many houses in many districts in the state. Demolition was justified on the ground that all such houses were illegally constructed. How farcical the police claim is borne out by the picture of a house that was fully demolished while all other adjoining houses remain intact.

In no case were the victims given either notice about the demolition or time to shift their belongings. In almost all cases, furniture and other belongings were thrown out before the houses were demolished. Nobody in his senses would believe that the action was justified. Alas, one BJP leader even threatened that there would be a Saturday after every Friday. The UP government has been doing all this in wanton disregard of all Constitutional proprieties and all sections of the criminal and civil procedure codes. In a country where even a mass murderer is considered innocent till he is found guilty and punished, houses built with life’s earnings and where two to four generations live together are demolished in a matter of a few minutes. Worse, there are no protests from political parties, social and religious organisations which, otherwise, claim to stand for truth and justice. Even the judiciary has singularly failed to take cognisance of the authorities taking the law into their own hands. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath seems to be happy that his diktats are not being challenged and he has verily emerged as the Bulldozer Baba!
Two years ago when protests erupted over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Yogi government issued revenue recovery notices against the members of a particular community. Fortunately, the judiciary intervened. The spread of Corona and the lockdown forced it to go slow on such strong-arm methods. Today, selective use of bulldozers has become the hallmark of the UP administration. Instead of condemning it, municipal authorities in states like Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Assam have been taking their cue from the Yogi model. In Delhi, the local authorities even made bold move to defy the Supreme Court’s directive for some time on the specious plea that they had not received the court’s orders. The fact that Yogi won all the constituencies, where he specifically boasted about the use of bulldozers, shows that he and his ilk have their cheerleaders. What is forgotten is that the rule of law, which is the cornerstone of the Constitution, is becoming a thing of the past. It is not the first time that people have protested against the government or its policies. The recent farmers’ agitation was a case in point. There were umpteen agitations led by the BJP when it was in the Opposition at the Centre. Its agitations in states like Kerala and West Bengal are not all that Gandhian.

Yet, has any government ever used the bulldozer against the leaders and participants of such agitations? Why are the machines used only against the members of a particular community? Does it mean that they do not have the right to protest, which is one of the basic rights the citizens enjoy in a democracy? Discrimination is considered the highest form of injustice and the victims are bound to protest in one form or another. History bears witness to how discrimination on the basis of religion, language and race leads to cataclysmic events as the rise and fall of the Third Reich in Germany. It is the constitutional scheme of things that helped India to reach where it is today and any attempt to destabilise it in the name of caste or creed will be disastrous. It is not for no reason that the judiciary has been vested with the powers to review all executive decisions with a view to ascertaining whether they are in accordance with the Constitutional parameters. The use of bulldozers to deprive anyone of a roof over his head behoves only those with a criminal mindset.

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