It started with a jibe, became an election campaign and has now begun spreading its roots across the country. The use of bulldozers to demolish houses and properties of those accused of riots kick-started in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath earning the sobriquet of ‘Bulldozer Baba’ for razing the illegal properties of criminals and promoting it as a stamp of approval of the state government’s policy to instil fear and maintain law and order.
As the BJP returned to the state with a massive mandate in the recently concluded polls, many opined that the bulldozer campaign had paid off and should be replicated in other states ruled by the saffron party. Soon, the bulldozer rolled into Madhya Pradesh as the BJP looks to beef up Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s image as someone who is hard-nosed against crime.
The term “Bulldozer Mama” soon made a starry entry into MP’s political lexicon as Chouhan’s government used bulldozers to demolish 16 houses and 29 shops of alleged stone-pelters who were accused of spreading violence during the Ram Navami procession in Khargone.
The bulldozer has now made its way into the national capital as the NDMC was scheduled to carry out an anti-encroachment drive on Wednesday in Jahangirpuri, where clashes broke out during a Hanuman Jayanti procession. However, the Supreme Court has stayed the demolition drive and will hear the pleas tomorrow.
Yogi Steamrolling to power again
Post the BJP’s clean sweep in Uttar Pradesh and Yogi Adityanath’s return to the CM chair, the UP Police has adopted the bulldozer as its latest artillery to instil the fear of law. According to UP ADG Prashant Kumar, within two weeks of the BJP and Adityanath’s return to power for a second term, more than fifty ‘criminals’ surrendered out of fear of bulldozers.
As per the Gangster Act, police investigation is mandatory before any such use of a bulldozer, but in most cases, the rule hasn’t been followed. The bulldozers were used in rallies during the 2022 UP assembly election to show a strong government in power, with Adityanath claiming in SP chief Akhilesh Yadav’s seat Karhal that the bulldozers have been dispatched for maintenance and will start functioning again after March 10, the result day.
‘Bulldozer Mama’ Not one to be left behind
The agricultural tool, which had by now become political, soon rolled into Madhya Pradesh as Chouhan decided to take a leaf out of Adityanath’s law and order book.
In fact, Chouhan went a step ahead and passed a more stringent law than UP to recover damages during acts of rioting. It has a provision of recovering the double value of damaged properties within a fixed time.
On March 22, when a tribal youth died in Raisen district after a clash between two communities, the chief minister ordered demolition of the accused persons’ houses. In Sheopur, houses were demolished in an alleged rape case, with the administration claiming they were built on illegal land.
The move seems to have become a quick favourite, with a section of right-wing organisations demanding bulldozer-like action against those involved in the Hubballi violence where protests demanding strict action against a teen over a social media post turned violent.
From loudspeakers to bulldozers
If it’s the bulldozer rolling from one state to another in north India, in Maharashtra, the loudspeaker has given political parties a new tool to rally around.
The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navanirman Sena set the cat among the pigeons in Maharashtra as he demanded that loudspeakers at mosques relaying ‘Azaan’ be removed by May 3 or else his party would play the Hanuman Chalisa at higher volumes to counter them.
Soon after, Nashik police commissioner Deepak Pandey issued an order directing that no ‘bhajan’ or religious songs be played on loudspeakers 15 minutes before or after ‘azaan’ in a radius of 100 metres of any mosque. The move led to further controversy.
On Tuesday, Maharashtra’s director general of police instructed officials to strictly enforce the law. The DGP instructed unit commanders to allow loudspeakers between 6 am and 10 pm with prior permission from the police, and asked them to strictly abide by the Supreme Court’s guidelines on use of loudspeakers as well as the noise pollution norms laid down by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.
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