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Muslim shopfronts torn down in Mumbai after religious clashes

Authorities in Mumbai, India, have demolished Muslim-owned makeshift shopfronts following communal clashes triggered by the inauguration of a divisive Hindu temple by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Minor clashes erupted on Sunday in Mumbai, with Hindus chanting religious slogans passing through a Muslim neighborhood on the city’s outskirts.

While no serious injuries were reported, by Tuesday, authorities used excavators to knock down over a dozen Muslim-owned shopfronts in the affected locality. The following evening, an additional 40 shopfronts were demolished on Mohammed Ali Road, a major downtown area and a hub of local Muslim commerce.

Authorities claimed the demolition was part of a “routine” campaign planned before the clashes to clear illegal encroachments and improve pedestrian traffic. Critics argue that this so-called “bulldozer justice” is an unlawful form of collective punishment disproportionately affecting the Muslim minority in India. Amnesty International’s Aaker Patel stated that the demolition drive in Mumbai reflects a “policy of arbitrarily and punitively demolishing Muslim properties following episodes of communal violence.”

The use of demolition drives, often targeting homes of those accused of participating in anti-government protests, has become more common in states governed by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. Muslims are predominantly affected by these campaigns. Officials argue that the demolitions are legal as they target structures constructed without official approval, but victims claim they are not given the legally required notice period to dispute demolition orders.

The clashes in Mumbai occurred on the eve of Modi’s inauguration of a new Hindu temple in Ayodhya, built atop the site where a Babri Masjid was demolished by Hindu zealots in 1992. This incident had previously sparked deadly sectarian riots in India. Local media reported at least 13 arrests related to the weekend clashes. Some affected shop owners expressed frustration, stating that they would have removed their structures if informed beforehand, emphasizing that the current actions were unjust.

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