The demolition of a house belonging to the family of a student activist in India has caused outrage, with many student organisations coming out in protest this week at what they see as politically motivated punishment of students and their families for exercising their rights to freedom of expression.
Student organisations, including the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU), staged demonstrations against the razing of the house of former JNU student Afreen Fatima in the Prayagraj district in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on 12 June.
The demolition came a day after the police arrested her father Javed Mohammed for allegedly conspiring to carry out protests in Prayagraj that were staged in response to disparaging remarks made by two spokespersons of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) about the Prophet Muhammad.
Violent protests erupted in Prayagraj and other districts across the country on 10 June in response to the offensive remarks. Police alleged Fatima’s father was a key conspirator in the Prayagraj protests and later alleged that Fatima was advising her father.
On 11 June, Fatima had put out an appeal on social media, writing to the National Commission for Women, to draw attention to concerns about the safety of her father.
The JNUSU staged a demonstration the following day on the JNU campus in New Delhi in solidarity with Fatima, who also took part in the protests, venting their anger against what they regarded as a punitive demolition.
They shouted slogans against what they dubbed “bulldozer rule”, referring to the widespread use of bulldozers by the state government under its chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, to demolish properties, and held up placards stating: “Stop the witch-hunt of Muslims”.
In April, the authorities in New Delhi bulldozed Muslim-owned shops after communal violence, in what many have condemned as chilling extrajudicial punishments.