Assam Govt Pays Rs 30 Lakh to Muslims for Demolishing Their Houses in Nagaon

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In November 2022, the high court stressed that bulldozing a house is not sanctioned under any criminal law

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI – The Assam government has informed the high court that it has paid Rs 30 lakh to five Muslims as compensation for demolishing their houses on May 21, 2022.

Authorities demolished the houses of Muslim families after their menfolks allegedly torched a police station in the state’s Nagaon district in protest against the ‘custodial’ death of a fish trader.

Zunaid Khalid, the victims’ advocate, said the state government has informed the Gauhati High Court concerning the suo motu public interest litigation that a total of Rs 30 lakh in compensation has been paid to five persons, while payment to one is still pending, media reports reaching here said on Friday.

The government paid Rs 10 lakh each for two pucca houses and Rs 2.5 lakh each for the five kutcha dwelling units that were bulldozed by the administration at Batadrava in Nagaon district.

The recipients of the compensation are Inamul Haque, Hifjur Rahman, Mojibur Rahman, Rafiqul Islam, Akkas Ali, and the legal heir of the deceased Safiqul Islam.

Payment to Safiqul Islam’s wife has been withheld as she has yet to obtain the legal heir certificate.

Batadrava police station was set on fire by a mob following the alleged custodial death of a local fish trader, Safiqul Islam (39), who was picked up by police the night before.

A day later, district authorities bulldozed seven houses, including that of Safiqul Islam and his relatives, purportedly in search of weapons and drugs hidden beneath the structures.

In November 2022, then Chief Justice R.M. Chhaya pulled up the Assam government over its action and wondered if “tomorrow you need something, you will dig up my courtroom.”

“How can you do it? You can be anybody. Nobody is safe…under the guise of investigation if you pull down anybody’s house,” he added.

The court stressed that “bulldozing of a house is not sanctioned under any criminal law,” even if an agency is investigating a “very serious matter.”

The court had further said incidents of such bulldozing of houses are done in movies, and even in those, a search warrant is produced before the act.

Justice Chhaya had even equated the bulldozing of houses to an act in a “gang war” and asked the home department to find better ways of carrying out their investigation.

In January 2023, the Assam government informed the court that appropriate action would be taken against erring officials for demolishing the houses of the accused.

Accordingly, the court directed the state government to compensate the persons affected by the demolition.

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