India Intelligence Report

   SC Stays Vadodara Demolition


The Supreme Court (SC) accepted a Federal Government writ and stayed the Gujarat High Court (GHC) verdict that sanctioned the demolition of scores of Hindu Temples and Muslim Mosques illegally constructed on public land. The GHC concluded that public hardship such as major traffic snarls caused was more important than hurt sentiments of communities purely on the basis of the law. The May 2 ruling clearly told the Government that it should not be partial in the demolitions. Indian laws prohibit illegal construction on public land and do allow the demolition of the buildings without distinction of whether they are religious or non-religious in nature. However, the responsibility of ensuring that public space is free from encroachment is the job of the Government.

Following the GHC order on May 2, the Municipal authorities started the destruction of temples and when a 200 year old Dargha (resting place of a Saint), Muslims rose up against the authorities and started a riot. The Muslims say that the authorities did not show any sensitivity in the demolition process, that they proceeded with the destruction even when negotiations were in progress, and that this is the continuation of the pogrom of State Chief Minister Narendra Modi to eliminate Muslims. 

There is one body of thought that says that the Muslims are being unduly sensitive and irrational during this episode. This group says that the Congress Party and its allies in the Federal Government pamper the minorities to secure their votes and actually work against the nation. They accuse the Muslim community of not negotiating in good faith, being recalcitrant, and always seeking exemptions to rules that apply to everyone else.

Another body of thought says that the violent reaction has roots in the 2001 murder of innocent Muslims in Ahmedabad in response to the murder of Hindus by Muslims in Godhra. The proponents say that the State Government must have realized that there would a violent rioting in response to this move and that the State is deliberately provoking such violence. They also say that Modi is instigating these policies so that he would appear strong and worthy of taking over a leadership-deficit Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (some have retired, one killed by his brother, others expelled, some are incompetent and unimaginative, and one is ageing). 

Unfortunately, these are political arguments suited to benefit one political party or the other. These arguments miss the big picture and greatly compromise how the country is going forward.

First, did the State Government recognize the existence of these religious structures by way of electrical connections, mailing addresses, delivery of mail, sewer connections, water connections, registration of trusts, etc? 

Second, being illegal and constructed on public land, how did these religious structures/institutions manage to obtain these recognitions? 

Third, did the State ever notify these structures that they were illegal and demand that they vacate the premises?

Fourth, was there an attempt at good-faith negotiated settlement by the illegal party?

Fifth, why did the GHC initiate the destruction of the religious sites without an application but sorely on the basis of a newspaper article?

Sixth, what sort of verification or validation was insisted by the State and Administration before they started the demolition drive?

These are the questions that need answering. It is interesting to note that neither the prosecution (the State) nor the Defense (the religious entities) ever sought compensatory premises or sought a negotiated settlement. It is almost as if both parties wanted to make a point in court and when that failed on the streets.

Some of the statements made by the Federal Government is not becoming of a Government functionary. Here are some examples:

  • A Federal Minister was quoted as saying that “Darghas must not be demolished.” Does this mean that Hindu Temples, Sikh Gurudwaras, Christian Churches, Jewish Synagogues, and Buddhist and Jain Monasteries can be demolished at will? 
  • · While pleading for a stay, the Additional Solicitor-General quoted Home Ministry reports that predicted nation-wide rioting if the demolitions do not stop. They also said if the situation is not controlled the law and order issue will spread to other parts of the country. Does this mean that the Home Ministry believes that when communities protest violently, the law should not be applied because the Nation has to held hostage to such violence?

India requires practical measures that bring about a process to resolve such disputes. For example, should not the State Agencies that recognized the illegal structure held culpable? Was this recognition granted because of loopholes in the law or because these organizations bribed, cajoled, or threatened officials to extract such recognition? Should not the State be granting alternate space as its agencies and functionaries are also parties to years of legitimization of illegitimate structures? Would not such strong measures dissuade vote-bank seeking recognitions and approvals?

Home Page
Subscribe to receive this page daily by email
Unsubscribe from the mailing list