Lie of ‘Illegal Immigrants’ in Jahangirpuri Spun by BJP, AAP; SC Order Violated: Brinda Karat to News18

Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member Brinda Karat was the only person on Wednesday in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri from among the political class when the area civic body’s demolition drive was on. And it was her intervention that caught the attention of every other political party as well as the citizens. She spoke to News18 about what transpired at the site, her plea in the Supreme Court, and ‘bulldozer politics’. Edited excerpts:

You have moved the Supreme Court also. But since there was a petition already in the court, why did you feel the necessity to move one more, and what is your prayer?

No, yesterday what happened was that once this order came that they are going to demolish houses, I know that area, we also have a fact-finding team there…look, no notices were given and that is completely illegal. On that basis, there is a special mention before the Supreme Court, which, fortunately, in the course of justice and due process of law, gave a status quo order. So now, we have followed it up with a petition in the Supreme Court.

What is the prayer that you have made in front of the Supreme Court?

This is completely illegal because there is no due process of law. And because they are very poor people. What that means is that the law applies only to the rich and for anything that they do. As far as the poor are concerned, you just decide that they are illegal encroachers and you don’t go through the process of law. So it was extremely wrong. It was totally selective because as we know, in Jahangirpuri, there is a huge problem of livelihood. As we know, all the factories in nearby areas, many of them have been shut down, and now, after the pandemic, people are desperate. So, many of them have got these small shops. This was in C block. But anyone going to Jahangirpuri will see such shops, small sheds, just outside their homes and they are running shops.

So first of all, it was selectively done. This means that it has nothing to do with stopping illegal encroachments and everything to do with a sectarian political agenda of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. That’s what it was.

What made you go there (Jahangirpuri)? Especially because no other political party actually showed up there. Not even AAP, which has the government here.

It was such blatant injustice, particularly knowing that no notices have been given and the Supreme Court order coming in the morning, and in spite of that, it continuing, it was very, very important to ensure that in the capital of India where demolitions are illegal, where democratic rights of citizens under the law are being demolished, even the Supreme Court of India and its orders sought to be demolished, so, obviously, we have to intervene. And all of us went from my party, the CPI(M), and quite frankly, as communists, that’s our creed. Wherever there is injustice, we go and fight.

How do you see the absence of other political parties over there? The Congress was not there, AAP was not there. None of the other political parties were there, trying to give solace to the people over there or trying to intervene positively.

I don’t think I will comment on that because that’s up to other political parties, but what I would like to comment upon is the totally false narrative that is being spun in the discussion between the BJP and AAP. The BJP says these are Rohingyas and illegal immigrants and justifying it, and AAP responds by saying ‘It is you who have settled them there in the last eight years’. This is totally wrong. Who has said that they are illegal immigrants? They have been there since the inception of this resettlement colony called Jahangirpuri, the C block. There are Bengali-speaking Muslims there who have been working here in Delhi for decades and how dare they, whether it is BJP or AAP, justify something totally illegal by branding a whole set of households, thousands of households, as illegal immigrants? So the narrative between AAP and the BJP…forget the illegal demolitions…the whole narrative is being spun in such a way in which people, living in C block in Jahangirpuri, who are Bengali Muslims, are being victimised and being abused and not being treated as citizens of India. That is what is so objectionable. Whether they go or not, I can’t comment on that.

What would be your next course of action?

Our main concern is that Jahangirpuri has been an area of peace and communal harmony. There have never been any communal incidents. So, I think, our first task as every Indian concerned with illegal bulldozer politics must be to build the unity of the people at the ground level and that is what we are striving for. As far as the demolitions are concerned, it is so patently illegal that, obviously, we do not expect that it can continue like this. That’s totally illegal. So let us see. But our concern is to build and keep intact the unity of the people.

The photograph where you are standing in front of the bulldozer, that has gone viral and it actually has evoked very strong responses from people. What made you do that? What prompted you to go and stand in front of the bulldozer? Was there any fear at that point in time? Because there were so many people, anything could have happened.

Every day, our comrades are facing bulldozers one way or another. Every day, communists in India are resisting injustice. It just happens that the media is not there when this happens. Every day, our comrades are doing it. So, as I said, as communists this training is part of our creed to be with the poor and to fight for justice. That’s all.

Actually, what happened is that you told the commissioner of police that there is a stay order and the demolition should be stayed. What was the response of the police then?

They knew very well. I showed him the watch. I told him that it is 12.25 and the order has come at 10.45 and don’t tell me that in the capital of India, you are unaware of such an order. It is absolute rubbish. I came and saw, I am an eyewitness to the contempt of the Supreme Court order. So obviously they had no answer. So he put me in touch with the MCD officer who was supervising everything, it was a lady, and she said ‘no, no we are stopping it’. But it was so brazen, the violation of the Supreme Court order in the capital, telling me ‘we don’t know about the Supreme Court order’. So brazen what they did.

Do you see a pattern where first there are communal tensions, then riots, followed by demolitions?

Absolutely. This is a method of intimidation, bullying, and terror against a minority community, citizens of India, to deny them their constitutional, democratic rights, and I think that has to be a concern to every Indian citizen. It is not just a house that is being demolished, or a small shop, or a livelihood. It is actually the framework and the Constitution of India which is being demolished.

Why is the CPM not being able to translate the support that it has into votes? That is a concern within the Left, isn’t it?

Let’s not talk about votes. Let’s talk about justice. Let’s talk about preventing bulldozer politics.

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