Image used for representational purpose only. (Photo | PTI)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Photo | PTI)

Bulldozer justice is illegal, immoral and unjustifiable

The Narendra Modi government had taken the wise course after the global uproar. That hand must move again.

Only the thinnest veneer of legality covers the kind of official ‘action’ that India has chosen to take against those it has deemed to be guilty of infractions in the public sphere in the wake of the Nupur Sharma controversy. At present, as a republic, we are bulldozing over the very spirit of the law. The bulldozer knows no legal nuances and niceties.

Afreen Fatima has been an outspoken voice articulating the Muslim point of view ever since the nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Her father, Welfare Party of India leader Javed Mohammed ‘Pump’, seems by all accounts to be a man invested with a community spirit. His house in Prayagraj, which was demolished by local authorities on being an ‘unauthorised’ construction, was a hub for relief measures in the neighbourhood during the worst phase of the pandemic.

The political views of father and daughter may not match with another person’s, or with that of the government, but they are entitled to hold them and express them in public—as long as those do not include calls to break the law. If Javed had any role as the “mastermind” of the protests against Nupur Sharma, and by extension in the acts of vandalism that were witnessed in those protests—as is being alleged—there would be perfectly applicable clauses of the law that would account for it. The constitutionally correct way to approach such a situation needs no reiteration: investigate, prove and prosecute.

Punishment without trial is not the way of democratic republics. And such a disproportionate action—someone’s house being demolished, as an act of exemplary punishment—becomes a form of hypervigilantism by the State. It’s bad in law, morally unjustifiable, and not a very sagacious thing to do at a time when the international spotlight is on India vis-a-vis the recent controversy. The Narendra Modi government had taken the wise course after the global uproar. That hand must move again.

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The New Indian Express
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